A Rustic and Elegant Wedding Weekend at Blackberry Farm
Beth and Aaron met while walking home from middle school one day. Like many girls of that age, Beth developed an instant crush. But shortly after, Aaron started dating her best friend. It wasn't until a few years later, when they were running track together in high school, that they gave it a go. The two were together for a couple of years, but ultimately parted ways before college. After graduating, they resumed their relationship and the rest, as they say, is history.
The high school sweethearts, were reunited for about a year and a half when they took their dog to the beach by their home in Chicago. Since their days as teenagers, Beth (who works in wealth management) and Aaron (who is studying to become a nurse) like to walk on the sand and look for sea glass, racing to see who finds the first piece. On this particular day, Aaron informed Beth he was the victor of their longstanding competition, but as she approached, and he opened his hand, there was an emerald-cut ring tucked in with the sea glass pieces.
She said "yes," and they set out to plan a heartfelt wedding in the mountains of Tennessee, at Beth's favorite place in the world: Blackberry Farm. The weekend began on Friday with a rehearsal dinner in the garden, with most of the 170 guests in attendance. The following day, on September 9, 2017, the couple that first met a half a lifetime earlier became husband and wife in a celebration with a few handmade and heartfelt touches. The entire weekend came together with help from Jennifer Laraia Design, and was cohesive thanks to a common thread of celebrating the venue's natural beauty in an elevated, rustic way.
A Natural Invitation
The stationery suite was natural and warm—more or less the theme of the wedding—thanks to a blush-mocha-colored ink, wood veneer elements, and hand-torn handmade ivory paper. Tiny Pine Press incorporated the main invite card into a deckle-edged paper pocket that included the detail cards for the weekend's events and the response card and envelope. A blush wax twine and a small twig "button" secured the pieces together.
The rolling hills and smoky mountains seen from all over Blackberry Farm made it a bucolic setting, which is why Aaron suggested it as the location of the wedding. Beth's parents and her two older sisters had tied the knot at her parents' home in Chicago, so this decision broke the mold a little, but it allowed everyone to spend an entire weekend together, cut off from the rest of the world, in a little oasis in Tennessee.
Ready to Kick Things Off
Almost everyone invited to the wedding was able to attend the kickoff event for the weekend. The welcome dinner, which took place in the garden of Blackberry Farm, was a great way for the 160 guests to settle in, catch up, and start celebrating. Aaron always wears simple suits, but for the "garden chic" event he changed it up with a windowpane plaid jacket, pale blue shirt, and trousers. Beth wore an Inbal Dror dress (and a shawl as the temperature dropped throughout the night).
Stepping Out in Style
It was a beautiful late summer night as guests gathered for a cocktail hour, where the farm's signature ale was served with edible pansy garnishes and cocktail napkins stamped with the couple's monogram. A trio played live music, and the groom and the mother-of-the-bride gave speeches.
Known in part for its amazing food, Blackberry Farm delivered tasty fare throughout the weekend, beginning with these tiny pork belly biscuits. Carrot and mint pesto on chips, and smoked quail legs were also passed.
Welcome Dinner Time
Bistro lights twinkled over the picnic tables and benches, with casual centerpieces in shades of pink and peach adding a bit of color. Smoked beef brisket, wood-roasted salmon, and fried chicken were served family-style with equally enticing sides and desserts.
On the wedding day, Aaron wore a custom three-piece suit in a medium gray tone and then added a pocket square trimmed in gray, a pale silver silk tie, and black shoes. Beth always envisioned wearing something simple and classic on her wedding day, but when she went to Dimitra's Bridal Couture in Chicago and saw that they were having an Inbal Dror trunk show, that plan changed. She spotted this taupe wedding dress and saw it all fitting together as soon as she tried it on. "I loved the color and I felt special in it," she says of going outside of her comfort zone. Her mother's blue ring was her something old, blue, and borrowed, while the necklace by John Buechner was her "something new."
The Bridal Bouquet
The bride wore transparent, crystal-embellished Dolce & Gabbana pumps for the wedding.
Bridesmaids in White
Another pre-wedding vision Beth had involved her bridesmaids wearing white, so she let each woman select an all-white wedding dress for the big day. "I never felt prettier than I did trying on wedding dresses and wanted my bridesmaids to feel the same," Beth explains of outfitting her three sisters, soon to be sister-in-law, and best friend in actual bridal styles.
The groomsmen were a mix of the couple's brothers and a dear friend, plus Cato, the ring bearer dog. Cato came into Beth's life right before she started dating Aaron after college, and Aaron soon stole his heart.
The First Look
"I had warned Aaron that my dress wasn't conventional, and I mostly didn't want him to be too shocked when I walked down the aisle," Beth says of their first look. "He took it like a champ." One happy champ. "At the first look I said, 'I can now go blind knowing that I've gotten to see you in your dress and there will never be anything I see as beautiful as you,'" he says. "In that moment I could tell Beth felt beautiful and that made me happy, too."
After seeing each other and taking it all in, the couple took portraits on the grounds of Blackberry Farm with their photographer, Natalie Watson.
Tiny Pine Press incorporated dried silver lace vine and a sentimental touch inside the programs: a drawing of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet and a quote from the loveable bear that the couple had selected. Beth had loved the story growing up and it was the ideal spot to incorporate it for the big day.
Right before the bride started walking down the aisle with her Dad, she had a moment. "I chose 'The Luckiest' by Ben Folds as the song I walked down the aisle to and right when the band started playing, it really hit me how fortunate I am," she says. "I was about to marry my best friend, had my whole family there, had so many people that love us both travel to Tennessee to be there for us, and I couldn't have been more grateful in that moment. I cried a lot and had to pause halfway down the aisle to get my composure."
Beth's grandfather officiated the ceremony, during which the couple wrote and exchanged their own vows. But not without a small glitch. "My grandpa had written them out for us to read and I definitely stole one of Aaron's accidentally," Beth admits.
Handmade with Love
Guests' names and table assignments were printed on hand-torn cards and then affixed to one of the 170-plus ceramic bud vases that Beth made with help from her pottery teacher. Small flower arrangements filled each one, and everyone brought them to their tables to add to the décor. They later brought them home with them, as favors from the celebration.
The Indoor Reception
The festivities continued in Bramble Hall, where guests sat for the reception. Round and rectangular tables maximized the space underneath lush garlands of greenery crawling up the beams of the room.
The Table Décor
Since each place setting would inherit a bud vase of flowers as guests were seated, the centerpieces were kept on the simpler side. Neutral linens covered all of the tables, but just the long ones were upgraded with hand-dyed silk runners.
For dinner, it was a four-course feast prepared by Blackberry Farm. Guests chose between a summer cabbage salad with guinea confit, herbs, mustard aioli, and red wine mignonette or grilled broccoli and carrots with preserved lemon, Parmesan, and Marcona almonds to start. Then everyone was served a slow-cooked farm egg topped with smoked mountain trout, chives, and crispy potatoes. For the entrée, two options were once again offered: a dry-aged beef strip loin with smoked potatoes, creamed kale and grilled mushrooms, or seared grouper with pickled ram hollandaise, caramelized cauliflower, forest mushrooms, and spinach.
A Buttercream Beauty
Blackberry Farm made the wedding cake and each tier had its own flavor: red velvet, vanilla, and chocolate. Fresh flowers dressed up the simple buttercream exterior.
A dessert trio was also served, as Beth is a sucker for sweets. There was an apple, brown butter, and almond cake; a peanut butter and jam cheesecake; and a milk-chocolate hazelnut crunch bar.
In between the ceremony and reception, Beth slipped into her Pronovias reception dress. "I knew before I started shopping I would want multiple dresses because I definitely wanted the second one to be really comfortable and didn't want to worry about moving around and dancing," she explains. This gown allowed her to let loose, starting with the first dance. "We used to watch Scrubs together growing up. Who doesn't love Janitor? Well when he marries Lady, Ted did an acoustic version of 'Hey Ya.' It's always been one of our songs," the bride adds, so the couple danced to a stripped-down version of the Outkast classic.
Another memorable moment? Beth's dad played a touching rendition of "Is It OK If I Call You Mine" by Paul McCrane that had the entire room in tears. But it was a surprise performance by his wife, who sang "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon. "She's always beating herself up about how she could be better," Aaron says of her singing. "But it was really great to watch everybody there get to experience what I see. She was having fun and I always love watching her do something she loves."
Photography, Natalie Watson Photography
Location, Catering, and Cake, Blackberry Farm
Event planning and design, Jennifer Laraia Design
Cinematography, Shiloh Film Company
Stationery, Tiny Pine Press
Calligraphy, Anne Jones Calligraphy
Music, The Golden Coast All Stars
Hair, Nine Zero One
Makeup, Julia Blumenthal
Lighting and Tent, Skyline Tent Company
Sound production, Bandit Lites
Restrooms, Royal Restrooms
Seamstress, Sandra G's