Cleveland (GA) Wedding at Neverland Farms by Alternative Life Photography
We may be in the middle of winter, but I just had to share with you this rustic wedding that may have been held in the fall, but would definitely be perfect for any time of year. An intimate wedding of 100 guests incorporated rustic, vintage, science and country with the North Georgia mountains as the beautiful backdrop. You may not know this couple now, but after seeing (and reading) about their wedding you will feel like they known them forever. Have a seat on the porch, curl up with a blanket and take a trip to the North Georgia mountains with photos courtesy of Alternative Life Photography.
Tell us how you met…
One of the greatest influences Gareth and I share is our love of biology and nature. We met when I came to work in a biology lab that Gareth was already working in at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. I knew immediately that I was more than a little interested, and Gareth, who was higher-up in the lab, immediately knew he was in trouble. After a couple of months of playful banter and flirting over microscope settings, he was still resisting my advances. Eventually, we were both at a going-away party for a colleague and I finally made a drink-fuelled full-fledged move. NB This event is different if you ask Gareth, who insists (incorrectly) that it was he who made the first move. Regardless, we started quietly seeing each other, although we took it very slow. It was almost a year before he met my family and another few months after that for me to meet his family from the UK. After 2 years together, Gareth was offered a job in the UK but said he would only take it if I wanted to move there with him. I had never lived more than an hour outside of Atlanta, so I decided it would be a great change of pace and- come on- who would pass up a chance to live in England? We spent the next 2 years living mostly long-distance as I tried to find a graduate position in the UK, and once I had made the official (and legal according to immigration) move over, we started talking about making the next big step.
Can you give us an overview of the event?
For our wedding, Gareth and I wanted a very laid-back, casual feel. Ideally something like just hanging out for the evening, but with more drinks, more dancing, a perfect outdoor country setting, and Gareth and I celebrating our love and our new life together. We found the “perfect outdoor country setting” we were looking for by chance (and by my mother’s internet perusing) in Neverland Farms in the North Georgia mountains. We completely fell in love with the garden area for the ceremony and the big open barn for the reception as well as the menu options. They were the perfect introduction to southern cuisine for our guests from Gareth’s side of the family, most of whom were from Wales/England and the perfect familiar comfort food for my family. We also wanted to honour some of the traditions of both sides of our family while making sure that the wedding represented us as well as our heritage. So in the end we had our perfect laid-back, outdoor, farm-yard, Welsh/Southern US, biologist wedding.
Was there a specific theme or style?
We wanted everything about our event to be casual, easy, and laid-back, but still elegant. Through our reception decorations and lighting we embraced a warm, rustic, vintage feel – perfect for the mountains in fall backdrop.
What inspired the theme or style?
We tried to take inspiration largely from our lives and from our heritage. One of my favourite things to collect is antique books (a trait which I inherited from my mother, who donated a large chunk of her collection to the wedding cause), so we paired them with loads of antiques and old bottles to give a slightly vintage feel. My mom very sweetly scoured every place she could find to search for not just antique books, but antique books that represented Gareth and I: antique biology/chemistry books, beautiful old English culture and history books, and some of the fairy tales and stories that we loved as children. She also collected antique tea tins (an obvious favourite among the British), coffee grinders (a particular favourite of ours), and tons and tons of Scrabble letters, which Gareth and I are playing on any given weekend. I stayed true to my inner Southern girl with the menu of lots of delicious fried, casseroled or otherwise hearty, unhealthy, and heartwarming comfort food. We honoured Gareth’s Welsh/Scottish heritage with his father (a folk singer and groomsman) singing a Scottish love folk song as I walked down the isle and including a Welsh love spoon in the favours.
What were your playful twists that made the event unique?
We tried to put aspects of us and our lives into as many details as possible. The reception decorations were picked painstakingly by my mom and almost all of them directly represented us: antique science, British, and camp-fire books, coffee grinders, tea tins, Scrabble letters, and even beautiful antique science equipment that she found at garage sales. For our guest book we chose a book called The Great Naturalists which detailed (of course) our favourite naturalists, and guests were able to sign in the margins. For the music, we decided on a local bluegrass band and had Gareth’s brother, a musician, sing our first dance song, “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers. The gorgeous barn at the venue also had a huge bonfire, so we couldn’t resist putting a s’mores kit in our favour bags (with instructions for the British guests) as well as Welsh love spoons (with descriptions for the American guests). For the invitations, we went through an amazing letterpress shop in Louisville, Hound Dog Press, which took a design with a mason jar and beautiful typeset to make a gorgeous invitation for us. They also offered printing on plantable paper, which is recycled paper with wildflower seeds embedded so guests can actually plant the invitations! However, it was the ceremony that I felt truly reflected our personalities, our styles, and what’s important to us. After his dad sang a Scottish folk love song as I walked down the isle, Gareth’s very english PhD advisor performed the ceremony. We had a reading from Charles Darwin’s notes- the pros and cons of marriage read by a long-time friend and a classic- “The Art of Marriage”- read by 2 of our closest friends. We had written our own vows and exchanging them was one of the greatest moments of my life.
Did you DIY any of the details?
Most of the details we tried to do ourselves, thanks mostly to my mom. While we were preparing for the wedding 5000 miles away, my mom was tirelessly stamping our initial “F” and a mason jar onto 100 burlap bags for favours for the guests, tying burlap bows around mason jars and arranging bundles of barley and lavender for the isle markers, and finding every bottle, button, book or brooch that she thought would fit well. She even took pages of books that were falling apart and made paper pinwheels with brooches in the centre for the reception. Once we had arrived, we put together the favours of s’mores kits and Welsh love spoons; made s’mores sticks from bamboo shoots and wire curled into C’s, G’s, hearts, and flowers; and taking huge chalk boards to write the program, write little how-to’s for the favours, and write a big “thank you” to all of our guests. We also painted rusted tin to make signs for gifts and cards and made a rustic wooden sign post to mark directions to the ceremony and reception as well as the main places from which people had travelled: Atlanta, London, and Sydney. My mom found an antique clothesline which she used as inspiration to take frames and use picture-hanging wire to string across in rows to hang lots of photos. She set up these and the clothesline to display pictures of us at the ceremony. My mom also went a little crazy with extra Scrabble pieces and spelled out not only things like “amore” and “cariad” (love in Welsh) on Scrabble tile holders but also labels for the types of pies we had.
What was the most memorable moment?
I loved absolutely every second, but the moment that will stand out just slightly more than the rest would have to be when we exchanged our vows. We had written them ourselves and decided not to share them with each other until the actual moment, and it was perfect. Unfortunately for Gareth, I went first and was just able to get everything out without blubbering, and Gareth was able to get through his with just a little something in his eye. For a bit of added humour, after I had said my vows and put the ring on Gareth’s finger, he went to kiss me just before our officiant said “whoa, not yet!”. It was perfect. Even better, our amazing photographers were able to capture just that moment.
Tell us about the food and desserts.
Oh, the food. Suzy’s team at Neverland Farms do an absolutely incredible menu of good Southern comfort food. I also really appreciate their timing of the meal- guests were served our starter of roasted tomato basil soup with asiago crustinis when they went from the ceremony to the reception (while Gareth and I were having the few pictures that still needed taking done- another shout out to our awesome photographers!), and once we got in and had our first dance, etc Suzy advised everyone that dinner was ready and to allow the newlyweds to enjoy their meal. It was perfect although with all the adrenaline and excitement Gareth and I could hardly take advantage of the amazing feast- Blue Ridge beef brisket, “smoked on the bone” chicken, bacon lovers’ mac ‘n’ cheese (come on…), pecan crusted squash casserole, and loads of salads and breads, etc. These went perfectly with the local brew Sweetwater 420 and Yuengling. For the desserts, we decided that pies from the amazing Pie Hole in Roswell were better suited than a big traditional wedding cake. We had 5 different types of pie plus (for the traditionalists) Tahitian vanilla cake with buttercream frosting. Since we couldn’t decide on a pie for our cake cutting, we ended up having a small red velvet cake with a cake topper made from burlap bunting saying “Mr & Mrs.”
What kind of energy did your entertainment give the guests?
After considering our venue location in North Georgia, the general feel we were looking for, and our shared love of folk music, we decided to hire an Athens-based bluegrass band, The Packway Handle Band. They were absolutely incredible! They gave the perfect backyard Southern ambiance to make guests feel comfortable and at ease. As we were taking some pictures nearby we heard them play some of our favourite classics as well as instrumental pieces that put us in the perfect “day in the country” mood for pictures and mingling. Just as dinner was ending they handed off to the DJ, The TC Show. It didn’t take long for everyone to get on the dance floor- the DJ played a perfect mix of classics and current hits. We were apprehensive about Gangnam-style current music, but almost everyone was dancing along and loving it! One of my favourite things about weddings- everyone just gets into it! Many of us kept dancing right up to the end, which was perfectly punctuated by “I’m Gonna Be” by The Proclaimers.
We want to know about all the wedding details, was it small and intimate or big and traditional?
We wanted our wedding to have a comfy, at-home feel, and we wanted to keep it pretty small and intimate. We also wanted everything be as personal as possible, and do as much as possible ourselves. Thanks to my mom’s and my late night wedding-blogging and ‘Pinteresting’, we were able to modify many ideas to suit the feeling we were going for. Before the ceremony, Gareth and I decided to do a first look, taking advantage of the beautiful fields around the wedding site and a charming little dock on their pond. During that time guests gathered with by a smaller barn that had been decorated with clotheslines and large frames with picture wire covered in photos of us and our families and friends; a large hand-made sign post marking directions to the ceremony, the reception, and the major cities from which people had traveled: Atlanta, London, and Sydney; my childhood trunk for gifts and old suitcases for cards; and a huge chalkboard with the ceremony program. The bluegrass band played as people mingled and got to their seats, after which Gareth, his groomsmen, and my bridesmaids took their places. I came to the garden with my dad in a horse and black carriage and walked down the isle as Gareth’s dad/groomsman sang a Scottish love song, “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Along the isle we had shepherd’s crooks with mason jars willed with bundles of barley and lavender and tied with burlap all of which my mom made. Gareth’s PhD advisor read out a program that we had written, in which we had changed the questions of intent to include little bits specific to us like late lab nights and fishing trips. We also added a little nod to The Beatles, Gareth’s favourite band, adding “here, there, and everywhere” to the end of our questions of intent. We asked some of our close friends to do readings of “The Art of Marriage” and a list of pro’s and con’s of marriage from the naturalist Charles Darwin. Finally we wrote our own vows and barely got through them without tears, although Gareth had to use a few air punches to do that. After the ceremony Gareth and I took some time to bask in our new marriage, and after a few pictures we joined our guests at the reception. Suzy’s excellent team had taken all of the decorations that my mom and I had put together and arranged them perfectly around the barn. We had dozens and dozens of antique books which my mom had collected over the previous months that were largely about us: antique science, British, and campfire books; tea tins; coffee grinders; a shark jaw, shark teeth, and a pufferfish (all of which Gareth work on); Scrabble letters; antique science equipment; and lots of thistle. My mom also found loads of antique bottles, milk glass, wood crates, and other little antiques of the style that can be found around our homes for the table decorations. She took the brooches and used them with old book pages to make pinwheels that looked perfect with the decorations. We also found more barley, lavender, succulents, and thistle to put in the bottles and around the tables. On another table we had a crate with the favours: burlap bags with a mason jar and “F” stamped onto them filled with Welsh love spoons- a wedding tradition, and a s’mores kit for the bonfire outside. We also had a chalkboard with instructions/descriptions for the treats. Near the bonfire area, we had a large tin bucket with quilts and a sign inviting guests to “Keep Cozy” and another wish s’mores sticks we had made with bamboo shoots and copper wire twisted into C’s, G’s, hearts, and flowers. At the other end of the barn we had our guest book table with an antique typewriter with succulents and our guest book: a copy of The Great Naturalists in which people would sign in the margins. Upon entering the reception, Gareth and I had our first dance to his brother Neil singing and playing (guitar) “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, followed by dances with our parents played by The Packway Handle Band. My dad welcomed everyone and gave a blessing, and after trying to calm down long enough to eat some of the amazing food, we took advantage of the dancing, the Photo Booth with plenty of props, and the beer on tap. After a good bit of dancing, we enjoyed speeches from the best man, the matron-of-honour, and Gareth, and Gareth and I cut our cake. We decided to have a small red velvet cake decorated with simple fondant dots and topped with bunting reading “Mr & Mrs” for the cake cutting. Afterward the guests were let loose on our desserts of a variety of pies and Tahitian vanilla cake. Gareth and I had our exit under a line of sparklers held by our friends and family, although we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave just then so we went back to dance for a bit longer.
What was the best wedding advice you received?
The best advice I received was “don’t put too much pressure on yourself and on the little details- and enjoy yourself!” Things will go wrong and some of the details won’t work out, but keeping flexible and focused on the things that are important helped me truly enjoy the planning and especially the big day!
Venue/Caterer: Neverland Farms | Cakes: Memorable Creations | Pies: The Pie Hole | Photographer: Alternative Life Photography and Design | Floral: The Flower Post | Decor: Suzy at Neverland Farms and my mom! | DJ: The TC Show | Band: The Packway Handle Band | Stationery: Hound Dog Press | Save the dates: Paper Flowers Stationery and Design | Photobooth: Portable Poses