Jeni, who works in children's ministry, met Justin, an accountant, in 2006, months after becoming a widow. They took their time getting to know each other and eventually their friendship became much more. On a trip to a private North Carolina estate two hours north of their home near Atlanta he asked Jeni to marry him. Then, with close friends and family on hand, he popped the question to Emma, Jeni's daughter, too. In the late afternoon on September 10, 2011, the pair wed in a heartfelt ceremony on those very same grounds.
The couple rented Hawkesdene House for the wedding weekend. Its rustic location in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains provided the perfect setting for guests and family members to hike, play horseshoes, watch football, and dine alfresco in the days leading up to the nuptials.
The bride's matron of honor, Tori Cole, put her skills as a graphic designer to good use, and helped create the invitation suite. Printed on Paper-Source stock, it began with a save-the-date featuring a paint-by-number picture of the wedding location. Each additional component played off that crafty concept. The suite was bound together with grosgrain ribbon and a tag bearing a custom heart-shaped monogram of Jeni, Justin, and Emma’s initials.
The couple stood in front of an altar made from a vintage dresser belonging to Jeni's late husband. It was topped with a cross of reclaimed barn wood and a floral arrangement in a pewter vase.
Family members and friends read passages from the Bible -- including 1 Corinthians 13, which cites "love never fails." The phrase holds special meaning for Jeni, who says she feels incredibly lucky to have found lasting love a second time.
After exchanging their self-penned vows, the duo turned to Emma who surprised them with vows of her own. Then, each one of them sprinkled soil and water over a potted rose tree. It symbolized their unity as a family, and it’s now planted in their backyard.
At the end of the service, Justin and Jeni gave Emma a necklace and a heart-shaped pendant etched with their fingerprints.
After cocktail hour, guests sat down for dinner at long tables covered with flaxen runners, floral arrangements in milk-glass vessels, and napkins garnished with aromatic rosemary sprigs.
Guests dined on strawberry-goat-cheese salad with poppy-seed dressing, new potatoes with garlic herb butter, roasted trout, roast beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, and sautéed green beans.
Guests were offered a variety of desserts from Gabriel's (a bakery near the couple's hometown in Georgia): brownies; fruit tartlets, mini cupcakes, including lemon and fudge-and-peanut-butter; and chocolate truffles. A trio of cakes -- fudge with vanilla buttercream, carrot with cream cheese frosting, and white cake with strawberry filling and buttercream icing -- decorated with fresh flowers were also served. One confection even boasted an antique topper first used at the bride’s great-grandmother's wedding in 1915.
Photography: Alan Friedman Photo
Location and Catering: Hawkesdene House
Wedding Coordination: Jeannine Kennedy of Honeysuckle Wedding Company
Flowers: Amy Osaba Event.Floral.Design
Stationery: Soft Grey Paper
Cake and desserts: Gabriel's
Music: Paris Luna
Rentals: Classic Party Rentals
Hair and makeup: Atlanta West Hair Company
Engagement ring: Solomon Brothers
Groom's wedding band: Fabuluster