It was a crisp, clear, October day when Caroline Ledbetter and Mel Wilcox began their lives together. Surrounded by close friends and family, as the leaves were just beginning to adopt their autumn hues at Swann Lake Stables in Birmingham, the pair celebrated their love story.
Caroline’s stunning bouquet is captivating as she and her groom walk the grounds at Swann Lake Stables.
Caroline and Mel have known each other since high school, but were separated by roughly 260 miles of interstate for most of their dating relationship, as Mel left for South Carolina to study at Furman University and Caroline attended Auburn University. Though the pair put countless miles on their cars through those years, the distance seemed infinitely worth it, especially in December 2014, when Mel proposed.
While home for Christmas break that year, the couple set out to enjoy their annual Birmingham Christmas traditions. They went to the Alabama Theatre to catch one of the movies showing in the Holiday Films series, they drove around town to look at Christmas lights and they went for one of their routine hikes at Oak Mountain State Park. There, Mel surprised Caroline with an early Christmas gift. Caroline says they are always seeking to “one up” each other with thoughtful gifts, and this simply seemed like one of those times. “When Mel pulled out a leather bound journal I had given him for his birthday a couple years ago, I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for us,” Caroline says. “He told me he had been writing about our relationship in it for the last two years. Every page had a date and a memory from time we’d spent together. It got closer and closer to December 20, and I flipped to the last page and it said, ‘Today I propose to Caroline.’ Then he got down on one knee and proposed!”
From there, they began planning a day filled with beautiful, muted autumnal tones; intentional, heartfelt details and an intimate, worship-centered atmosphere. “The most important thing to both of us was making sure that Jesus was at the center of that day and at the center of our marriage,” Caroline says. “More than anything else, we wanted His love to be on display.”
Caroline and her bridesmaids share a moment of prayer.
The couple stands hand in hand before the Little Cahaba River as they embark on their new life together.
Swann Lake Stables, which is owned by a family friend, was the perfect setting for the October 17, 2015 wedding, and was an easy choice for the couple, who knew from the beginning they wanted to get married outside. From there, many of their decisions fell into place. Caroline knew she wanted to pull from a soft, fall-inspired color palette, which she brought out in the romantic mismatched bridesmaids’ dresses and beautifully unique florals. The ceremony was set in the field adjacent to the stables, anchored by two gorgeous oversize urns spilling with greenery. With acoustic music by Act of Congress and a time of prayer and worship where the wedding party and family gathered around the couple, the ceremony was a heartfelt celebration of love.
The laid-back feel of the rest of the day carried over to the reception. Lush greenery, soft lighting from candles and the nearby stone fireplace, and the gorgeous backdrop of the grounds at Swann Lake Stables invited guests to relax and enjoy themselves. With delicious food, including tomato pie tartlets, homemade biscuits and fried chicken bites from Savoie Catering, and fun reception music by Papa Sol, the couple danced the night away before heading out in a cream-colored vintage convertible. Caroline and Mel now live in Denver, CO, where they are enjoying the mountains and life as newlyweds.
Caroline, along with her mom and a couple of close friends, road-tripped to Atlanta to visit The Sentimentalist, a vintage-inspired wedding dress boutique. There, Caroline found her dream gown by Leanne Marshall, winner of Season 5 of “Project Runway.” Though Caroline tried on about eight dresses, the perfect dress was actually the first she tried on!
How gorgeous are these rings?
In addition to her wedding dress as her “something new,” Caroline wore her grandmother’s wedding bands on her right hand for her “something old” and had fabric from her mother-in-law’s wedding dress borrowed for her garter.
Caroline incorporated a little “something blue” in her fabulous wedding shoes!
One of Caroline’s favorite moments of the day was the couple’s first look. “I never really wanted to do a first look, but now I would never change that moment,” says Caroline. “Mel and I got to see each other, relax and pray together. It was really special and made the rest of the day much more fun and not so much of a whirlwind!”
These two have the most contagious smiles!
Caroline wanted to utilize autumnal tones in their wedding without crossing over into cliché territory, and the gorgeous florals helped accomplish that aesthetic. She gave a few of her general requests to their florist, Laura McCarty of Marked, but otherwise totally gave over creative control, resulting in absolutely stunning florals that really completed the look for the day.
Caroline absolutely loved the bridesmaids’ dresses. The mix-and-match styles and colors coordinated beautifully with Caroline’s delicate gown.
“I wanted our wedding day to be an intimate, personal day that was a powerful reflection of the Gospel and of our relationship,” Caroline says. “We both love the outdoors, and we always try to find beauty in the simple things, so I wanted to represent that.”
Act of Congress set the tone at the ceremony with their beautiful acoustic renditions of “Be Thou My Vision” and “Life in Technicolor,” by Coldplay, along with several other special selections. “Ever Be,” by Bethel Music, was performed during a special time of prayer over the couple and worship during the ceremony.
“I know it might sound crazy to some people, but Mel and I loved our premarital counseling,” says Caroline. “One of the pastors from our church, also our officiant, and his wife spent so much time with us, helping prepare us for this lifelong commitment we were about to make and keeping us focused on what the season of engagement was all about.”
“I think my favorite details were my flowers and arrangements,” Caroline says. “I can’t stress enough the amazing work that Laura and her team did with the bouquets, table arrangements and my crazy idea of oversize urns with lots of greenery.”
The beautiful, three-tiered cake by Barb’s Cakes, with its soft, textured buttercream and simple florals, fit in perfectly with the simple elegance of the day.
Guests enjoyed delicious food by Savoie Catering, local beer on tap by Cahaba Brewing Co., along with a selection of other beverages and the couple’s signature drink, sparkling wine with blood orange and a fresh sprig of rosemary.
Caroline and Mel enjoy their first dance as husband and wife.
Guests dine and dance on the patio with the stone hearth ablaze as the band plays!
The bride and groom dance with the adorable flower girls.
After dancing the night away, the couple made a sparkler-flanked exit and drove into the night in a vintage convertible.
“Realize that your wedding day is just one day of your life,” Caroline says. “There will always be aspects of it that aren’t picture perfect, but it will always be beautiful and memorable for you and your husband and your family and friends. Instead of focusing so much on planning for that one day, focus on preparing for your marriage, which is every day for the rest of your life. You will always reap the rewards from investing in that lifelong covenant.”
May your road be long and happy, Caroline and Mel!
Photography: W&E Photographie
Wedding planner: Mimi Bittick and Robert Hill from The Major Event
Wedding dress: Leanne Marshall from The Sentimentalist
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Jenny Yoo from Bella Bridesmaids
Groomsmen and groom’s formalwear: Custom-made suits from Hartbrook Clothier; ties from J.Crew
Cake: Barb’s Cakes
Flowers & invitations: Laura McCarty of Marked
Ceremony & reception: Swann Lake Stables
Catering: Savoie Catering
Ceremony music: Act of Congress
Reception band: Papa Sol
Makeup: Jaclyn Gibbs
Videographer: Chip Burns
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