This year could easily be labeled The Year of Changed Wedding Plans. All across the country travel has been put on hold, event spaces have been closed, and big gatherings discouraged. Certainly not what you’d call an ideal climate for a big event like a wedding. Today we’re featuring a real Dogwood Hill bride who took all of these challenges in stride and managed to pull off a gorgeous 2020 wedding. The bride, Leah, is sister to Dogwood Hill’s Marketing Director Casey, and when quarantine hit, they knew that plans for Leah’s big June wedding were likely going to have to change. Leah and her fiancé Rick decided that life goes on, and that June 13th was still going to be their wedding day. So Leah and her family got to work, and after nixing the big venue and extensive guest list, decided to host an intimate wedding at their family home in Birmingham, Alabama. Working with their wedding coordinator, Summer Schor, they managed to create a truly magical event. With chiavari chairs filling the living room, and Leah walking down the aisle in her Grandmother’s wedding dress, the couple exchanged their vows in front of their families and then danced the night away under a garden full of twinkling lights. Leah was kind enough to share some images from their beautiful day as well as some thoughts on the details that made the wedding day so special.

How did you and your fiancé meet, and how did he propose?
Our story is one of perfect timing. We both grew up in Madison, AL, had tons of mutual friends, went to rival high schools, then to UAB, and even lived in the same apartment building without ever meeting each other. It wasn’t until Rick took a job at our local coffee shop, O’Henry’s, in 2018 that we finally met. I overheard him, the cute new manager, talking to a customer when he mentioned the high school he had gone to, and wormed my way into their conversation where we made so many wild connections and laughed about how many times we’d been in the same building, completely oblivious to each other’s existence. Rick and I started dating not long after. We both agreed that if we had met at any other time in our lives, a wedding would not have been the outcome. We had both gone through so much growth the year before, so it definitely was perfect timing.

My birthday is right around Thanksgiving, and all I wanted was a little picnic in the park across from OHenry’s, with both of our families and Rick’s pup Daisy the weekend before the holiday. That morning, I went to get coffee before the picnic and was sitting outside waiting for Rick to join me. He and the dog came up and sat next to me and Rick mentioned that he had gotten Daisy new dog tags. Totally oblivious I said “Oh, cool!” reached down to look at them and read “Will you marry my dad? -Love, Daisy” and before I could even process what was happening, he was on one knee with the most beautiful ring. I cried for way too long before I could answer, and once I had the ring on my finger, there came my family from across the street and his family coming from the other way, converging on us with huge “She said yes!” balloons. It was the perfect birthday.

How did you feel about having to change your initial wedding plans?
Being forced to change wedding plans so close to our date was definitely stressful. I more that Rick was pretty bummed that we were going to have to give up our gorgeous venue with the grand staircase and all it’s drama. But, as we started peeling layers away, what we uncovered was the wedding that we originally wanted – a smaller, more intimate event.

What was the feeling that you wanted to capture for your wedding and how did your Dogwood Hill paper coordinate with that?

I wanted my wedding to be a floral chinoiserie explosion with rich colors and twinkling lights. When we started talking about invitations and programs, I knew I wanted to have florals in gold and pinks and purples and when I saw Gina’s suite I fell in love.

How did you decide on your wedding dress?
Choosing my wedding dress was the easiest decision I think I’ve ever made, besides saying yes to Rick! My ceremony dress has been passed down 3 generations now and has seen 7 weddings. My grandmother is a very small human and I am the only one in my generation small enough to fit into her dress. The delicate lace detail and the double bustle and all the buttons were so perfectly elegant, I couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle in anything else. I also had the privilege of wearing my mom’s veil. Everything about ceremony was so sentimental. The reception is a totally different story. I’m a dancer and wanted something where I wouldn’t have to worry about tripping on hems, or ripping lace, or popping buttons. We found the perfect dress at Heidi Elnora, a tea length dress with poof, poof, and more poof!

What were your favorite moments from the day?
My absolute favorite moment of the day was turning the corner at the aisle and seeing Rick’s reaction. He lit up with such a big smile and so many tears. It was magical. At the reception, getting to dance with my bridesmaids was really special but I think the Father Daughter dance won the night. My dad and I are a little quirky and decided to dance to Squib Cakes by Tower of Power. We would slow dance, completely disregarding the 1970s funk, break into one of dad’s signature moves, and then go back to our slow dance.

What was the best advise you received as a bride?

The best advice I got as a bride was “Drink lots of water, eat good food, get lots of sleep, show up on time, and don’t fall down a flight of stairs. Anything else is someone else’s problem.” That advice was given to me in the form of a hula-hoop. If it’s not in your hula-hoop then give it to someone else, and every once in a while something would come up that I would go off to do and one of my bridesmaids would yell after me “Is this in your hula-hoop??” It made the whole weekend really calm for me, knowing that I was doing all I needed to do and everything else was being handled.

Photographer and video: Mary Margaret Smith Photography

Wedding Paper: Dogwood Hill

Coordinator: Southern Seasons Events

Flowers: Huckleberry Collective

Caterer: Savoie Catering

Brides Party Dress: Heidi Elnora

Bridesmaids dresses: Bella Bridesmaids

Brides Hair and makeup: Abby Moorer Hair and Makeup

Wedding Cake: Olexa’s

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