On a beautiful September evening, with the first breath of autumn crisp in the air, Ivy Henderson and Josef Schuster stood under a canopy of trees alongside the river at Swann Lake Stables and exchanged wedding vows.
“I think my favorite thing was just seeing it all come together. Leading up to it, we had made so many decisions and selections and, on that day, seeing it all come together was really something,” Ivy says. “It felt like we had really created a special day, and I was at ease that we had made the right choices on everything. I can thank Mariée Ami for that peace I had that day. They were the ones doing all the work that day so that I could focus on my marriage and enjoy what we had created.”
Swann Lake Stables was the perfect rustic-yet-comfortable backdrop for Ivy and Josef’s autumn wedding.
Inside the stable, an iron chandelier is festooned with flowers and greenery.
Ivy and Josef’s paths crossed by chance — first at a party, then again in Highland Park several months later. Josef felt a connection at their first meeting, asked for Ivy’s number and soon afterward invited his future bride to come out with some friends — but the outing was scheduled for too late on a “school night” for Ivy, and the plans were forgotten. Several months later, they happened upon each other again at Rojo, and it was then that their love story truly began. “We talked some more, and he called me that night and asked me to go to dinner later that week,” Ivy says. “I often wonder if our paths hadn’t crossed again, would we have ever reconnected.”
Fast forward to a weekend trip to the coast with friends. The pair arrived at the beach house several hours before the rest of the group and stole away to the beach with a bottle of wine to enjoy a few quiet moments together before the festivities of the weekend would begin. “When we were ready to go back up to the house, I stood up and, when I turned around, Josef was on one knee with a wooden box he had made with the ring inside,” Ivy says. “The humidity had made the box sweat a little and we had to really try to get the top off. Once we did, there was a beautiful ring inside and I, of course, said ‘Yes!’”
An outdoor autumn wedding seemed like the perfect fit for Ivy and Josef, who spent much of their early relationship hiking and enjoying water and the scenery at beautiful Little River Canyon. “I immediately knew I wanted it to be outdoors and to have a more rustic feel,” Ivy says. “We both love the fall and the spring and the feel of the seasons changing.” With its breathtaking property and barn, Swann Lake Stables was an easy venue choice for the couple but it was its location — tucked along the edge of the Little Cahaba River — that made it an absolute perfect fit.
Ivy and her bridesmaids pause for a photo on the banks of the Little Cahaba River. We can’t get enough of those gorgeous custom-made bridesmaids dresses and breathtaking florals!
We love the personal touches incorporated into Ivy and Josef’s invitation suite. From the wood grain to the Alabama-shaped save-the-dates and beautiful calligraphy by the bride, these paper products are perfect! Image: Ivy Henderson Schuster
We love a laid-back group of guys! Josef and his groomsmen obviously know how to get silly for a photo.
Ivy’s lush bouquet is incredible on its own but it also has one of her something old/something new pieces incorporated into it for a special added touch. “I had an heirloom necklace from my husband’s family tied around my bouquet for something old. My garter was blue and given to me during my sorority days with Tri-Delta. My something new was an Art Deco bracelet my parents gave me as a wedding gift.”
“I live in Homewood and drive by the Carriage House all the time. I always knew that when it was time, that was the first place I wanted to go. My grandmother and I have a special relationship; I grew up across the street from her and am named after her. She is in her 90s and a real firecracker! I knew she’d be up for going with me,” Ivy says. “This dress first struck me because of the gray lace overlay, I thought it was so different and tied in nicely with my color palette. I also wanted a little bit of a non-traditional feel to my dress since our day was going to be more casual. It was the first one I tried on — and it was love at first sight. I tried on a few others but kept going back to it. My grandmother cried watching me try on dresses — and we just had the best time.”
To complement the rustic, cozy theme for the day, Ivy chose a romantic color palette for her florals: soft grays, whites and greens with touches of pink and coral. Her florist, Buffy Hargett, executed Ivy’s vision perfectly, giving each bridesmaid a unique arrangement while still maintaining a cohesive look. Green and white pumpkins incorporated throughout the venue gave an elegant nod to the season, and groupings of bud vases arranged on the dining tables added the perfect relaxed-yet-refined finishing touch.
Ivy’s main focus while planning the wedding was crafting a day that was thoughtful and intentional and was focused first and foremost on the marriage that would follow the actual wedding day. “Josef and I wanted the day to be a celebration of our marriage and for people to really witness the love we have for each other,” Ivy says. “I wanted it to be a wonderful day but I didn’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture that we were committing ourselves to a lifelong relationship.” Ivy and Josef, together with wedding planner Mariée Ami, created a comfortable atmosphere for their day that was brimming with personal touches throughout.
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The ceremony took place beneath a canopy of trees on the grounds at Swann Lake Stables, where antique pews were arranged before a stunning arbor. Following the ceremony, the couple hosted a Southern supper for their guests that incorporated all of their favorite foods — and they even served chicken fingers and cheesecake bites for a late-night snack. Nods to Josef’s experience as a woodworker were present, from the hand-carved arbor they were married beneath to the wood grain incorporated into their invitation suite. As proud Alabamians, they included the shape of the state in their engraved wooden save-the-dates, as well as on cookies and napkins at the reception.
The bride and groom before the ceremony.
“The crisp air that day was perfect and we knew rain was heading our way. We chose to still have the outdoor ceremony, which the rain held off for, and I’m so glad we did,” Ivy says. “The wind stirring during our ceremony and the cool air from the storm created a really magical moment for us to get married in.”
The moment from her wedding day that stands out most in Ivy’s memory was walking down the aisle, arm in arm with her dad, toward her groom. “Walking down the aisle with my dad and seeing my husband for the first time that day was the most special moment for me. I’ve always been close with my dad and having him walk me down the aisle meant the world to me,” Ivy says. “Once I saw Josef, I immediately lost sight of everyone else and just saw him at the end of the aisle waiting for me. I felt so connected to him in that moment — and I knew I was marrying the perfect man for me.”
Ivy and Josef took their vows beside the babbling brook and under the canopy of leaves on the verge of turning fall colors.
Ivy and Josef share their first kiss as husband and wife below the arbor they crafted together. “My husband is a woodworker and has always enjoyed making things himself. For our wedding, he built the arbor we got married under and we both painted it, together. I had our florist create a floral cross that hung from the center to provide a visual connection to our faith.”
The happy couple smiles together just minutes after the ceremony.
Could there be a more romantic backdrop for wedding party photos than this gorgeous wooded setting?
Groupings of vases filled with individual stems and bunches of florals create a beautiful statement on the dining tables yet maintain the relaxed, fuss-free look that Ivy wanted to achieve.
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Guests were treated to cozy outdoor seating beside the fire at the reception.
Even the cat was feeling the relaxed vibe that Ivy was going for.
What a sweet cake topper for this thoughtful couple!
What would a reception for “Alabama Joe,” Josef’s nickname, and his Alabama bride be without the state’s shape on koozies and napkins?
“We had a photo from our engagement pictures made into our guest book. I had seen a similar concept where an artist printed a large piece of art on paper, cut it up into postcards that were then sent out and returned and made into a large collage. I thought I could use that idea to create a guest book,” Ivy says. “We enlarged the photo, had it printed on chip board and then cut into squares. Each square had a number that matches a place on the framed board. Each guest signed the back of the photo and then hung it on the board. Over the evening, the picture came together and created an art piece that we now have hanging in our home. We love to read the notes people left that day and remember each person that was there.”
Josef’s vintage Jeep served as the laid-back couple’s coach, whisking them away from the reception with a simple poster and a gaggle of cans announcing their love.
A sparkler send-off was the perfect end to an enchanting evening.
Ivy’s advice to brides-to be? “Enjoy the process and don’t let little things worry you along the way. It’s hard to not be stressed, at times, when having an event like a wedding but focus on the bigger picture of your marriage and what is really important,” Ivy says. “It’s a joyous celebration no matter what the circumstance!” Sound advice from this beautiful bride.
Here’s to many happy years to come, Ivy and Josef!
Photography: W&E Photographie
Wedding planner: Mariée Ami
Wedding dress: Custom Olia Zavozina purchased from Carriage House Weddings
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Custom Made
Groomsmen and groom’s formalwear: Jos. A. Bank
Cake: Barb’s Cakes
Flowers: Buffy Hargett Flowers
Venue: Swann Lake Stables
Catering: Savoie Catering
Band: 2nd Coming
Hair: Jason Wilkerson of Harbuck Salon
Stationery design: Mary Baugh with Mariée Ami
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