Clear your afternoon agenda lovelies. We’ve got a dose of rustic-romance that will have your ticker racing a million beats a second. And no matter what it is that draws you in first… the insanely beautiful blooms from Colonial House Of Flowers, the adorable invites done up by the Bride herself or those sweet cow girl boots (a gift from the Groom!), all-together it makes for one lovely gallery from Haley Sheffield.

Rustic Venue

From the beautiful Bride… You know those major life experiences that you hope you’ll have in the future, the ones you dream about throughout your life? You imagine how they’ll happen, how you’ll feel, how your life will change. For me, those experiences include(d) things like kissing a guy for the first time, getting my driver’s license, going off to college, getting married and having a child. And while I have hoped for years that certain things would happen for me, like meeting that one person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life (and who can tolerate me for the rest of theirs), I wasn’t sure it would all pan out like I had imagined. I have seen that very thing happen for countless friends, and while I’ve been happy for each of them, there was always a gnawing in my gut that reminded me of my deep desire to find what they found. I wanted to experience that kind of love. And now, by God’s sweet grace, I have. Friday evening, one of those major life experiences played out in living color for me when my boyfriend proposed. He asked me to marry him. He didn’t ask me on national television or in a hot air balloon or up on stage at some rock band’s concert — thank goodness. Instead, he stayed true to exactly who we are as a couple. He waited until I got home from work, and when the two of us were alone and I was in my pajamas — he asked. He told me how much he loves me, just as he always does, and he simply asked if I would be his wife. And that life experience was better than anything I ever could’ve imagined.

I began my search for the perfect dress with three things in mind: 1) I wanted it to have sleeves and lace; 2) It had to look fabulous with my cowgirl boots, a birthday gift from Matthew the year before that I planned to wear for the wedding; and 3) It had to work within my very strict budget. Unfortunately, the first—and only—long-sleeved dress I tried felt more like a straightjacket than a gown and looked ridiculous with my boots. Luckily, my consultant was amazing, and after a few tries, I decided on the perfect compromise: A strapless lace gown with a scalloped sweetheart neckline and chapel-length train. It went perfectly with my boots, and instead of sleeves, it featured a matching high-collar sheer scalloped lace bolero that created a Queen Anne neckline. I was comfortable with the extra coverage up top, and I had the tailor add snaps inside the dress so I could tuck the bolero in, creating the illusion that it was all one piece.

I had my heart set on a barn wedding, and Matthew and I were sure we wanted to get married in the fall. I had no idea where to find the perfect barn, but we live in southeast Georgia — surely it was around here somewhere! A coworker suggested we visit Old Freeman Family Farm, and as soon as we began to drive down the driveway lined with pecan trees leading up to the barn built by the Freeman family’s own hands, we knew it was exactly what we had been searching for. (Weddings at Old Freeman Family Farm are a relatively new venture, so we were honored to be among the first couples to tie the knot there!)

Honestly, Matthew and I never completely decided on any one or two specific colors to incorporate into our day, and without attendants to dress, we didn’t have to. I found most of my inspiration in the vintage dishes and napkins I collected to use at the reception. Our flowers were phenomenal, as was our floral designer, who is also one of my dearest friends. Christy Hulsey at Colonial House of Flowers understood my vision, and even better, she understood me. The humble barnyard was transformed into a South Georgia garden in bloom, more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed. Surrounded by personal touches — the lush, green draping passion vine hand-picked right down the road from where I grew up and the golden rain tree blooms and nandina berries hand-collected by Christy’s grandmother from her very own garden — I felt completely at home. The rich, garden-inspired color palette of peach, coral, pink, orange and white featured a dreamy lineup of stars: peonies, astilbe, ranunculus, garden roses, O’hara roses, campanella roses, tulips, delphinium, Lisianthus and Queen Anne’s lace. Hanging pepper berries and privet berries added splashes of blue and red, and the result was nothing less than breathtaking. (Matthew and I loved them so much, we took a few arrangements along with us on our honeymoon!)

I chose to design and print our invitation suite, a decision that allowed me to create exactly what I envisioned at a much lower cost. Although I caught myself questioning my sanity a few times throughout the process, I think the final product was worth the effort, and many of our guests told me how much they enjoyed them.

Something old: Matthew had a jeweler take the marquis diamond from a ring given to me by my aunt and fashion my engagement ring around the stone. He has fantastic taste! Something new: I wore a fabulous pair of crocheted boot cuffs tucked into my cowgirl boots. Something borrowed: The night before the wedding, we realized we didn’t have a knife to cut the cake. Thankfully, Matthew’s sister-in-law graciously brought hers along the next day for us to borrow. Something blue: My guipure lace garter included a classic navy blue cameo charm (and some fabulous velvet ribbon).

Planning a wedding is expensive. Although I did relatively well staying within my budget, it required hours and hours of DIY projects, many lunch breaks spent scouring thrift and antique stores, tireless evenings searching the Internet and countless favors from the best friends and family a girl could ask for. Sticking to a budget forced me to make some tough decisions. It wasn’t always easy, but I was so proud of what I was able to accomplish. (Plus, it’s so nice to begin our marriage with no wedding debt!) I have two vendors specifically that were such a special part of our day: our florist, Colonial House of Flowers, and our photographer, Haley Sheffield. Together, they formed a dream team of talent. Haley was by my side for most of the day, and she went over and beyond her “typical” duties to make sure our day went as smoothly as possible. Add to that her sweet spirit, her sense of humor, her remarkable ability to set people at ease — I could not have been blessed with a more perfect photographer. I truly believe our children will find our photos just as stunning 30 years from now as we do today! One of my favorite moments was as I was getting ready, Beatrice, our floral designer’s adorable daughter, came walking into the room holding my bouquet. She was donning the most beautiful flower halo, and the bouquet she was carrying took my breath away. That moment was beyond perfect.

My advice for brides: Don’t sweat the small stuff, and try not to focus on the negative. There were plenty of little things that didn’t go as planned on the day of our wedding — like how my dress was still bustled when I walked down the aisle or how someone set out a roll of paper towels with the “Hankies for your tears of joy” sign because no one could find the vintage hankies I had collected for guests to use during the ceremony — but rather than allow those few things to drive me crazy, it’s so much more fun to laugh about them and celebrate the countless things that came together to make our day so perfect. Also, if you’re like me and go to the trouble of creating an extensive playlist for the reception, be sure your list finds its way to the DJ! Otherwise, he may end up blaring “What Does the Fox Say?” toward the end of the night. (I’m still not quite over that one.) Currently, Matthew is working hard toward a degree in computer science, and we’re looking forward to seeing where life leads us after he graduates. Wherever that may be, I’m so excited we get to take the journey together!

Photography: Haley Sheffield | Floral Design: Colonial House of Flowers, Est. 1968 | Wedding Dress: Elegant Bridals | Hair & Makeup: Bejai's | Confections: Frosted Fantasies | Family Farm: Old Freeman Family Farm | Inspiration: Slow Flowers | Music: Big Time Events | Rentals: Fairy Tale Tents | Sparklers: I Love Sparklers | Straws: Pink Lemonade Party