When my wife, Brooke, and I first met nearly a decade ago as Davidson College freshmen, we immediately bonded over Shakespeare quotations and the discovery of our mutually aquatic names (my middle name is Eddy). Art and nature have been shared passions and ongoing motifs of our relationship ever since. (My first attempt at a love song was a ukulele tune called “Leaves”). So when it came to imagining our long-awaited wedding day, we pictured an outdoor garden, with vows said among the trees and a meal savored under the sky.
We knew we didn’t want it to be as prim and manicured as a formal English garden, though not as rustic as a sprawling farm. We wanted our special day to be nestled in diverse foliage, with charming, informal spaces in which to gather and celebrate. So our wedding planning began with a search for our perfect patch of greenery.
We Journeyed to a Local Destination to Find the Perfect Venue
When our wedding invites made their way to mailboxes across the country, they asked guests to join us at Dunaway Gardens in Newnan, Georgia. We live in Brooklyn, and with Brooke hailing from Connecticut and myself a Denver native, “why Georgia?” was a common query. With the majority of our attendees needing to travel regardless of locale, we reasoned that as long as our venue was adjacent to a major airport, we could dub it a “local-destination wedding” and save significantly by venturing out of New York’s premium market.
Our search consisted of digging through hundreds of pages of Google results, scouring dozens of “best of” listicles, and making several unfruitful visits to venues dotted across the Northeast. Unexpectedly, it was in an online directory of notable East Coast gardens that Brooke happened upon a listing for Dunaway. With its rich history as a theatrical retreat and performance space (dating back to the 1920s), fairy tale–worthy flora, and proximity to the Atlanta airport, we knew we had found a home for our wedding.
A Forage Table Replaced Passed Hors d’oeuvres
To navigate the confusing (and hunger-inducing) decisions involved in selecting a caterer and planning a wedding menu, Brooke and I thought closely about what we enjoyed most about sharing a meal with loved ones—easygoing conversations, communal dishes, connection to nature—and landed on the theme of an elevated family picnic. We partnered with creative caterer Sun in My Belly to design a dining experience that felt both lush and personal, which translated into a “forage table”: a magnificent landscape of locally sourced charcuterie that served as the hub of cocktail hour. Guests built their own plates while listening to live music by folk duo Migrant Birds.
We Went to Home Depot Instead of a Florist
And for the decorations? We looked around our own home and recognized that nearly every nook featured the understated beauty of a houseplant. So we decided to top the dining tables with potted herbs and succulents, which we found where we normally get our plant babies: the Home Depot garden center. We measured out the eight-foot length of our tabletops on an open shelf at a local Atlanta Home Depot and played with all kinds of plants until we found the right mixture of fragrant herbs (lavender, rosemary, basil, tarragon, thyme, oregano); sculptural succulents; and petite, vine-like varieties such as ivy and creeping fig, which we arranged in a zigzag formation and linked with a reindeer moss runner.
As we look back six months later, now sheltered in place apart from friends and family, we’re filled with gratitude for the gift of these emerald-tinted memories.
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