This is a love story that started in November 2012 at an Ole Miss football viewing party. And, one knows there is definitely a Cupid out there when you hear that Tommy Stephenson took one look at the attractive brunette in a red shirt and thought she was a kindred spirit … an Ole Miss fan.
“Which I most certainly am not! Hail State!” says Katie Compton Stephenson. “He struck up a conversation with me. We have been together ever since.”
In May 2014, Tommy proposed to Katie while the couple was on vacation in Jamaica with the Stephenson family. “He surprised me with wine and cheese overlooking the ocean on the grounds of the home where we were staying. Then he asked me to be his wife! It was incredibly romantic,” says Katie.
Katie and Tommy were married at the Jekyll Island Club on Jekyll Island, GA, in a small ceremony attended by family and close friends. “The wedding was a smaller, more intimate setting—our guest list included family only with a few close friends as well,” says Katie.
As the Stephensons jetted off to their honeymoon, event planner Mona E. Dunlap was busy putting together a Memphis-centric party hosted by the groom’s parents, Tom and Susan Stephenson, to celebrate the newlyweds. The minute Mona toured Beale Street Landing, it was love at first sight; she knew this was the perfect venue for their party.
The $40 million riverfront development, which hugs the bluff right where Beale Street meets the Mississippi, is both a landing site for river cruises as well as a restaurant and bar.
“It’s quite an architectural gem for Memphis. It’s a fun, extremely unique setting,” says Mona. “The thing that I liked about it is was that of course it’s on the river, and we oriented the space to take advantage of that view of the bridge, the river and just a bit of the city.”
“It was a quick turnaround, but I loved that we had just returned from the honeymoon and everything was still recent in my mind,” says Katie, who describes the dress code for the event as party cocktail attire. “I wore a cream-colored embellished cocktail dress by Aidan Mattox and Badgley Mischka heels similar to my wedding shoes.”
“I wore the suit from the wedding, sans a tie,” adds Tommy.
Katie loved how the venue was transformed for the party. “Our wedding was intimate and romantic with soft colors and tons of candles, so I wanted the Memphis party to contrast that with bright colors and fun displays so it felt more like a party than a wedding reception.”
“The venue is flooded with much color, which was created by the designers who blew up a photograph of the sun setting over the Mississippi until only pixels were visible. The walls and colors are examples of this photograph manipulation,” says Kevin.
“We wanted to emphasize each work as a showpiece, as though you were walking through an art museum,” says Kevin. “The signature piece was a 12-foot-by-15-foot wall ‘sculpture’ that included magnificent cymbidium orchid sprays, four-foot oncidium orchids, anthurium and heliconia of various colors and varieties, banyan roots and an assortment of lush tropical foliage.”
“This was some of the best floral design I’ve ever seen,” says Mona, who calls Kevin a genius. “It was right up his alley, just great design.”
As a believer in using outdoor spaces to their fullest advantage, Mona envisioned a comfortable party area that incorporated the riverfront location and terraces.
Furnishings and food tables were oriented for the best view of the river and bridge. And it just so happened that the American Queen steamboat was docked at the landing that day, providing even more beauty for the party’s backdrop.
Lighting played a huge role in helping to draw all the elements together, says Mona. Kevin Griffin created patterns of light on the walls and ceilings of the building to evoke the feeling of the river and to soften any hard lines.
Simply Delicious Catering focused on Southern comfort food with a twist. Among the offerings were catfish beignets, beer-battered oysters and a barbecue “tini” with pulled pork, cornbread crumbs, beans, slaw and sauce.
“I really enjoyed the fried oysters and mac-n-cheese, but I think my favorite was the sushi,” says Tommy.
“We had a lot of Memphis-themed items, which was fun,” Katie adds. Banana pudding and other Southern-style sweets were the focus of the dessert course.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson’s first dance, at both their wedding and at the Memphis party, was to the Etta James standard “At Last.” “While I had a wonderful time seeing all of our guests who joined us to celebrate, my favorite moment was dancing with Tommy,” says Katie. “He’s a great dancer!” The Jimmy Church Band of Nashville provided the soulful soundtrack to the evening.
“I really loved getting to see all of our family again,” says Tommy. “Though our wedding was small, there were still so many moving parts that kept us busy. Being able to relax with our family and extended friends was really fun.”
As guests enjoyed the party, they were treated to the departure of the American Queen, which paddled south, on to its ultimate destination of New Orleans.
“It actually turned out to be the cherry on top of the sundae because it was just an unbelievable site to see that beautiful paddle wheeler make that 180-degree turn and set off,” says Mona.
“It was great to be able to get all of our family, extended family and friends together again,” says Tommy. “We had so much fun the first time, why not do it again?”
Congrats to the happy couple, and here’s to many more years of joy and love!
- Planner: Mona E. Dunlap Events, [email protected]
- Venue: Beale Street Landing
- Reception Photography: Lindsey Lissau
- Wedding Photography: Debra Peacock
- Flowers: Le Fleur
- Event rentals: White Door Events
- Lighting: Kevin Griffin Designs, (901) 830-9304
- Catering: Simply Delicious Catering
- Music: Jimmy Church Band
- Valet: Southern Valet