When Atlantans Amanda Howard and John Gowland met through mutual friends 12 years ago, the two hit it off right away. And after dating for about 10 years, John surprised Amanda with an engagement proposal she’d never forget. “He took me hiking in Virginia to a place that I’d always wanted to go to,” Amanda says. “It’s a really pretty overlook of the Shenandoah Valley on the Appalachian Trail. And as we were taking pictures, he dropped on one knee.” Catching the dental hygienist off guard, John pulled out a 1-carat custom-made engagement ring from Blackwell’s Jewelers. “He’s a very thoughtful person,” Amanda says. So much so that it took a decade for the businessman to propose, but that didn’t bother the bride-to-be. “He wanted the best diamond, plus, he had to plan how he was going to propose.”
After the proposal, it was time to start wedding planning, but Amanda wasn’t in the mood. “Weddings are just so expensive, and I’d rather use the money for a down payment on a house,” she says. But then she had a change of heart. According to her mother, Susan Logan, John said, “When we have children, how are we going to show them the pictures of our wedding if we don’t have a wedding?” So Amanda left the details up to her mom and John. “My husband and Mom planned most of my wedding, and it was beautiful,” she says.
The family decided to go with the 39-acre Cator Woolford Gardens for their special day, which took place on November 5, 2016. “We toured it, and we were sold,” Amanda says. With a guest list of 125 people, they were able to add personal touches throughout. The signature drink, “The Annie,” served as a nod to Amanda’s 70-pound pit bull, Annie. The beverage included ginger ale, sparkling apple juice, Kentucky bourbon and lemon. Another special touch that the couple provided included navy and blue pashminas with Amanda and John’s names on it. “We had a sign as you entered the venue that said, ‘To have and to hold in case you get cold,’” Susan says. Adding, “It was a perfect gift in lieu of hospitality bags.”
Cornbread & Caviar catered the wedding reception, where guests savored appetizers like chicken satay with an apricot-ginger dipping sauce and watermelon Mint Juleps. “That was a Southern Atlanta twist, but then the watermelon Mint Juleps were the Kentucky twist because my family is from Kentucky. And then we did a couple of Cajun things too because John’s family is Cajun,” Amanda says.
For dinner, folks noshed on everything from grilled beef tenderloin and butternut squash to sweet potato soufflé and green beans. “It was the best day ever,” Amanda says. Her advice to future brides is simple: “Be patient. Be kind. Be thankful. And go local if you can.”
We wish the newlyweds a lifetime of love and happiness!
- Venue: Cator Woolford Gardens at the Frazier Center
- Photography: Over Here Photography
- Event coordinator: Candice Rich at Rocky’s Lake Estate
- Bride’s gown: Amsale from Impression Bridal
- Bridesmaid dress: Ralph Lauren from Bloomingdale’s in Atlanta, GA
- Hair & makeup: Sheena Malloy and Patti Desko; Vianka Garza
- Invitations: Little Spark Creations
- Florist: French Market Flowers
- Catering: Cornbread & Caviar
- Ceremony music: Erin Knight (harpist)
- Cake: Miss Mamie’s
- Transportation: Caldwell’s Classic Cars
- Guest accommodations: The Georgian Terrace and Courtyard Marriott
Check out even more beautiful Southern weddings in our wedding archives.