This wedding night had two personalities: a stately, traditional pre-wedding party and ceremony on one side of the evening, followed by a majestic masquerade reception hidden behind closed doors until the band started playing. After their elegant St. John’s Episcopal Church wedding, Jeanne and Gordon Forsyth celebrated at a memorable masquerade ball. The reception theme was a surprise for the bride and groom inspired by the fall season and Gordon’s October 31 birthday. The Memphis Country Club was filled with the “grinning yellows and spinning reds” as grand as the picturesque scene we all love in Phantom of the Opera.
This imaginative evening was created by Russell Whitehead and Ruthie Bowlin, sisters who have taken a lifelong passion for designing and organizing events and turned it into a business. They had planned corporate retreats across the country and beyond for their husbands and thrown more parties than they could count. After they orchestrated five family weddings in three years, their friends insisted that they were professionals and started calling for appointments.
“Our mother, Jean Coors, has always been known for her legendary parties,” Ruthie explains, “and we have witnessed a boundless run of unique parties in her dining room.” Today, when people ask Russell and Ruthie if they ever run out of inspiration, they say, “Never! And thanks, Mom!”
Between these two, it’s hard for a detail to escape, but the key to a successful event, Russell and Ruthie agree, is to ask a lot of questions: Can a chef cook here? Can the band play there? An inventive approach engages everyone, including the party staff, and when the staff is engaged the guests are in for a treat!
Enjoy highlights of a charming bride’s dressing party and wedding ceremony, both replete with time-honored traditions, and the unmasking of a lively masquerade reception—all planned by Russell and Ruthie for Russell’s daughter, Jeanne, under the full moon of an October night.
In late October, it was the end of the blooming season outdoors, so a wedding without an overabundance of floral color was in order. Instead, Kevin Coble of Le Fleur responded to the bride’s request for subtle flowers with understated arrangements that emphasized fall color and texture.
“Plan to have photos before the wedding if the bride and groom are okay with seeing each other early,” Russell advises, “because the photographer can capture the pre-wedding beauty of the day in a more casual setting, and no one is rushed or waiting.” This elegant segment of their big day, the bride’s dressing party combined with photography, took place in the comfort of Ruthie’s home, which is also the childhood home of this event-planning duo.
For the reception, Russell, Ruthie and Kevin decided to create a gallery of trees in lieu of floral arches, with magnolias at the entrance and maples lining the walls. Twiggy branches in a woven arrangement against select walls were highlighted with green anthurium flowers in some rooms and red heliconia in others.
Other elements incorporated into the masquerade setting: white pumpkins, lights, orchids, bright orange table clothes with black chairs, a huge dead tree, and masks for everyone! There were even bats hanging from branches, smoke machines and girls in black cat suits dancing on large cubes flanking the stage where the Soul Shockers played all night.
Ruthie and Russell Events: 901.289.1530
Wedding Photography: Lynne Brubaker
Portrait Photo of Russell and Ruthie: Andrea Zucker
Floral Designer: Kevin Coble of Le Fleur
Wedding Dress: Carolina Herrera, NYC
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: twobirds, NYC
Invitations: The Stovall Collection
Cake: Old Towne Bakery
Hair: Ronald McKnight and Farrah Taylor, Up City Salon
Makeup: Seven Moore of Faces by Seven
Band: Soul Shockers