Time slows down in the Carolina foothills. With its verdant, rolling landscape and bucolic scenery, you simply aren’t left with much choice but to relax, breathe deeply and take it all in. Late last summer, Mary Austill Lott and John Flournoy’s closest friends and family members stole away for a long weekend at this serene locale, miles removed from the pressure of a big society wedding and the stress of everyday life, to celebrate the bride and groom and the start of their new life together.
Shopping is not in Mary Austill’s comfort zone, so when it came time to select a wedding dress she knew she wanted to find one as quickly and painlessly as possible. Her sister came along for the appointment at Joan Pillow and noticed Mary Austill eyeing a dress that would have been perfect — but it had sleeves, a deal breaker for this July bride. Mary Austill’s sister asked if the dress could be altered, Mary Austill tried it on, and the shopping was done!
The bride and groom’s friendship, unique bond and immense love for one another was at the heart of this intimate ceremony.
The bride and groom steal away for a few moments together before the reception.
Mary Austill didn’t dream about her wedding day. She simply never saw much merit in fretting over the perfect flowers or dress or cake, and she didn’t eagerly anticipate being the center of attention or envision hundreds of heads turning to watch her walk down the aisle. But, with the help of her mother and sister and the expert hand of Neillie Butler at Birmingham’s Mariée Ami, this fuss-free bride was able to pull off a day that perfectly captured her family-focused, relaxed attitude with touches of personality and organic, elegant style.
Mary Austill and John were brought together through Preston, a friend of John’s from college who married Kristin, one of Mary Austill’s cousins. Four years of well-intentioned pestering by the matchmakers paid off when the bride and groom finally agreed to meet and were immediately smitten. Two years later they were engaged, and their wedding date was set for the following July.
The bride and groom ruled out their notoriously hot and humid hometowns of Mobile, AL, and Houston, TX, as locations for the July wedding and ultimately settled on enchanting Cashiers, North Carolina, for their destination. Mary Austill’s family has a home in the foothills, so selecting this beautiful Lonesome Valley venue, with its stunning views and nostalgic appeal was a no-brainer for this outdoorsy couple.
With its stunning views and enchanting atmosphere, Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, North Carolina, was a perfectly dreamy location for this laid-back, outdoors-loving bride and groom.
We love the effortlessly beautiful florals incorporated throughout Mary Austill and John’s wedding day. The bouquets featured shades of peach and pink dahlias, peonies, ranunculus and roses with sprigs of eucalyptus, gathered and tied loosely with strands of white ribbon.
“The dragonfly pin was my grandmother’s. I was very close to my grandparents, but especially my paternal grandfather. Whenever my grandmother would wear the pin, I would admire it and shamelessly ask if it could be mine one day,” Mary Austill says. “My grandfather would always say, ‘If you can tell me the scientific name of the insect, then it will be yours!’ Every time I would say ‘Odonata Anisoptera,’ and this went on for years. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and after my grandfather died, she gave the pin to my aunt. I was so upset about it, because it was so special to me. Two days before our wedding, my mom took me on a walk and gave it to me. Needless to say, the tears poured out and it was by far the most meaningful gift I have ever received. I never imagined I would get married without them, so being able to wear that pin on my wedding day really made me feel like they were right there with me.”
Damselflies became a signature of the wedding and were incorporated in both the wedding stationery and in little touches throughout as a nod to Mary Austill’s love of insects (she studied them in graduate school!) and to her and John’s shared love of fly fishing. “He often gets frustrated with me fishing, because I am so focused on the dancing damselflies that I sometimes forget to watch out for the redfish!”
To suit their intimate guest list, the couple kept their wedding party small and informal. The ladies each wore a Lela Rose dress of her choosing, and the men all wore suits from their closets.
Mary Austill’s adorable flower girl is adorned in and flanked by beautiful blooms.
Mary Austill entrusted Neillie with creating a day that perfectly captured her and John. “Neillie got to know me a little bit, and then she created a vision for me — and she was spot on,” Mary Austill says. The day embodied natural elegance with neutral linens and pared-down centerpieces featuring lush, gathered floral arrangements spilling with greenery and simple glass votives. The beauty of the venue itself didn’t require much additional adornment, and each detail thoughtfully enhanced the surroundings without overpowering with them.
On the day of the wedding, clouds hung low over Lonesome Valley, sprinkling the venue with rain as guests gathered for the evening ceremony. A last-minute shift relocated the ceremony indoors, where about 150 guests gathered around a fireplace-turned-altar to bear witness to Mary Austill and John’s marriage. “In hindsight, the rain was the best thing that could have happened,” Mary Austill says. “It was an extremely intimate, extremely personal ceremony, and moving it indoors really enhanced that feeling.” And Preston, one-half of the scheming couple who first introduced Mary Austill and John, actually officiated the wedding. “Having Preston do the ceremony, and his father-in-law John Denson — who was my grandfather’s first cousin, soulmate and lifelong best friend — do our vows, well, it couldn’t have been more perfect and meaningful for us,” Mary Austill says. “When it was over, I can tell you not one person there would disagree.”
“Every part of the day was perfect, but I would say for me the most memorable moment was the homily,” Mary Austill says. “We didn’t get married by a traditional minister. We had one of John’s best friends, who is married to my cousin, marry us. We are both very close to Preston, and the homily he gave was so personal and heartfelt.”
“It was an extremely intimate, extremely personal ceremony and moving it indoors really enhanced that feeling,” says Mary Austill.
“Flowers aren’t something I really get into, but I can tell you that Floressence did an amazing job,” Mary Austill says. “They were gorgeous and not too formal or stuffy at all. So natural and colorful, and perfect for me. People are still talking about the flowers, so I know they must have been incredible.”
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The bride and groom share their first dance to Sturgill Simpson’s “The Promise.”
The petals on the beautiful five-tier wedding cake mimic the texture of Mary Austill’s dress, and a signature damselfly perches atop one of the tiers.
The rain clouds cleared just in time for the reception, as guests moved toward the outdoor tent to enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres while the bride and groom stole a few quiet moments together to relax and snack on their own charcuterie plate.
The menu served at the reception was simply incredible — a top priority for Mary Austill and John when first considering their day. They didn’t want to serve their guests typical wedding food, opting instead for a personalized menu prepared by Chef Adam Hayes and the talented Canyon Kitchen team. A farmers’ market salad station featured an exquisite selection of local produce, and for their main course, guests had a choice of ahi tuna, Texas-style beef brisket and lamb chops with perfectly complementary sides. In addition to wedding cake, guests enjoyed chocolate soufflé cake with raspberry dust and torched sabayon sauce, raspberry macarons with Chambord anglaise, and vanilla ice cream with vodka and Frangelico hazelnut liqueur. A food truck arrived later in the evening as guests were starting to get peckish and served banh mi sandwiches, tacos and chips and dip to keep the partygoers fueled well into the night.
The rain clouds cleared just in time for the reception, as guests moved toward the outdoor tent to enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.
With their use of neutral tones, lush greenery, and fuss-free linens and decor, Neillie Butler and the team at Mariée Ami perfectly captured the natural, elegant aesthetic that so aptly suited both the venue and the bride and groom.
What is Mary Austill’s best advice for other brides? “Hire Neillie Butler — immediately. I am not kidding. My mom and sister and I still have a relationship, and I can 100% attribute this to Neillie,” Mary Austill says. “I am not an easy person to plan for, since I can’t even pick out my own clothes. And her talent and ability to harness my poorly described ideas, thoughts and feelings was nothing short of genius.”
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The menu at John and Mary Austill’s reception was a food lover’s paradise. This inventive seaweed salad bar alone is the stuff of dreams.
In addition to wine and beer, signature cocktails were on hand for the guests.
As dusk fell, guests mingled in the misty grandeur of the breathtaking Carolina foothills.
A little fella takes audience with this crackling outdoor fireplace as the adults savor their dinner inside.
A food truck, serving bahn mi sandwiches, tacos and chips and dip, made an appearance later in the evening to give guests the chance to refuel and keep dancing.
A step away from the late-night festivities offered a stunning view of the glowing gathering under the cloudy cobalt blue of the night sky.
The bride and groom revel in their sparkler send-off!
The ring bearers and flower girl serve as the pint-sized chauffeurs and chaperones of the bride and groom’s golf-cart getaway.
Their chariot whisks them away into the night!
After an evening of dancing, dining and enjoying quality time with all of their guests, the bride and groom were sent off with a sparkler-flanked exit before they hopped on a golf cart and were whisked off into the night as the new Mr. and Mrs. Flournoy.
Here’s to many happy years together, Mary Austill and John!
Photography: Clark Brewer
Wedding planner: Neillie Butler, Mariée Ami
Wedding dress: Naeem Khan from Joan Pillow Bridal Salon
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Lela Rose
Cake: Cakes by Anne Sineath of SugarVeil
Flowers: Floressence Flowers
Venue: Lonesome Valley, Canyon Kitchen
Catering: Canyon Kitchen, Chef Adam Hayes
Band: Mr. Potato Head
Merchandise/stationery design: Caroline Borders, Mariée Ami
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