Dawn Riley and Lee Bains met in high school, bonded over a shared love of punk rock, broke up due to the growing pains of college and the stress of a long distance relationship, then found their way back to Birmingham and back to each other. And just a few short years later, the couple hosted the loveliest summer-camp-themed wedding tucked among the lush mountains of Mentone, Alabama.
Dawn, an architect, and Lee, lead vocalist and guitarist behind Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, knew early on in the wedding planning process that their top priority was to maximize time spent with their large party of family and friends. “We wanted our guests to feel somewhat removed from the everyday and immersed in the natural beauty of their surroundings,” Dawn says. “We also wanted to spend as much time as possible with all of the friends and family that would be coming. It really seemed like a destination summer-camp wedding weekend fit our personalities and families.” So the pair turned their attention to Mentone, Alabama, the charming, remote mountain town they each visited regularly as children, a place linked to their fondest memories. “With its beautiful scenery, rich Alabama history and ties to both of our families, it seemed like the perfect place to get away and celebrate with everyone,” Dawn says. But, sadly, Dawn’s original vision for her wedding day included the historic Mentone Springs Hotel, which had recently been lost to a fire. With their hearts still set on Mentone, the couple got creative and turned to Camp Skyline to accommodate their ideal wedding — a relaxed, nostalgic, vintage and playful weekend with friends and family.
As a naturally detail-oriented person, Dawn worried over the details until she arrived at the camp, but once she set foot on the grounds, she was able to let all of her worries fade away. “Once we arrived, I really made an effort to let it all go and be present in the moment,” Dawn says. “I knew it would all pass too quickly. Therefore, we made it a priority to plan a wedding that helped us relax and take it all in.” Guests began gathering on Lookout Mountain the Friday of Labor Day weekend to attend the rehearsal dinner preceding the Sunday wedding, and were immediately transported back in time to the nostalgia of summer camp, complete with s’mores, fire pits and water slides.
Lee and Dawn’s wedding day was filled with thoughtful touches and was enchanting in every way, starting with Dawn’s heirloom wedding gown, which had previously been worn by all six of the daughters in her mother’s family, as well as three cousins. “Each one would look around at other dresses, but would eventually end up falling in love with ‘The Dress,’ which is what we call it in our family,” Dawn says. “I was the 10th bride to wear ‘The Dress’ on my wedding day. It’s a really special family tradition that I feel so lucky to be a part of.” The heirloom gown served as Dawn’s something old, which she paired with new shoes, a borrowed lace veil made by Dawn’s cousin from the original train of “The Dress,” and her grandmother’s signature aquamarine ring.
At 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, 250 beloved friends and family members gathered for the outdoor ceremony. A romantic cascading floral installation served as the altar backdrop as Lee and Dawn pledged their love in an intimate, emotional ceremony that was one of the clear highlights of the day. “I will treasure those moments forever,” Dawn says. “I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude when I looked around during the ceremony and saw the faces of all of our friends and family.”
Following the ceremony, guests moved toward the al fresco reception venue, which was transformed with breathtaking florals and strings of lights. Maintaining the venue’s nostalgic summer camp charm was a priority for Dawn who drew her inspiration for the florals and decor from Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom. Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden Flowers immediately understood Dawn’s vision and carefully crafted the look with soft, textured blooms in shades of peach and blush paired beautifully with swaths of seeded eucalyptus and other lush greenery. Soft candlelight, long tables and artful touches by the team at Mariée Ami, including perfectly styled paper goods all the way down to the stirring sticks in the drinks, completed Dawn’s vision.
Lee and Dawn shared their first dance as husband and wife to “Bring it on Home” by Sam Cooke, and then enjoyed the ultimate wedding rock show and dance party with all of their guests. A delicious menu prepared by Shindigs Catering fueled the party, including sauerkraut and Slovenian sausage — a family favorite, crab fritters, cornmeal crusted okra, spaghetti and meatballs and late-night grilled cheese sandwiches.
Given that punk rock was what first brought the bride and groom together and that Lee is a musician deeply involved in the Birmingham music scene, it was crucial that the music at the reception be outstanding — and dear friends Heath Green and The Makeshifters delivered. “They don’t usually play weddings, but were kind enough to learn a bunch of covers for us, and let a rotating cast of our musically inclined wedding guests sit in with them,” Dawn says. “Toward the end of the night, it was pretty much musical mayhem.” The Glory Fires didn’t play the reception in their formal configuration, but Dawn remembers all members of the band, including her husband, taking the stage at some point throughout the night. One of her fondest memories from the day was stepping back and seeing her guests enjoying the music as much as she did.
“Watching all the kids on stage rocking out was really great,” Dawn says. “I think for some of the younger ones, this might have been their first rock show, which makes me proud.”
We can’t think of anything more fitting for this rockstar couple. Cheers to you, Lee and Dawn!
Photography: Dixie Pixel Photography
Wedding planner: Mariée Ami
Reception dress: Maggie Sottero from Diane’s Formal Affair
Wedding cake: Barb’s Cakes
Groom’s cake: Ethel Steele, available at 205-222-1941
Flowers: Rosegolden Flowers
Ceremony & reception: Camp Skyline
Catering: Shindigs Catering
Band: Heath Green and The Makeshifters
Hair & makeup: Abby Moorer
Merchandise & stationery design: Collaboration between the bride and Mary Baugh at Mariée Ami; printing by Patrick Masterson Letterpress.
Guest accommodations: Camp Skyline
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