Over hours of conversation and a six-pack of Harpoon Winter Warmer at Charlotte, North Carolina’s quirky SouthEnd Common Market, Stuart Yochem and Will Ruark quickly realized how much they had in common. They both held “atypical” jobs, with Will spending his days outside as a Park Ranger for the State of North Carolina and Stuart working alongside her mom in their Italian clothing boutique, Amina Rubinacci.

Just before their first date, Will accepted a job at Kerr Lake State Park near the Virginia border, so a tough stretch of long-distance dating defined the beginning of their relationship. For almost two years, they traveled north and south on I-85, listening to endless podcasts and getting to know each other steadily and completely. It was all worth it when Will heard he would be transferred to Lake Norman State Park in Charlotte, where he is now a head ranger.

In February of 2018, Stuart and Will went to Roan Mountain, TN (Stuart’s been every year since she was little), for a weekend getaway in the cabin-lined state park with their dog, Jasper. A hike to sunset views and beers atop Carver’s Gap, where Stuart had been dozens of times, turned into a moment she’d cherish forever. Will had coyly tied a red bandana around Jasper’s neck that read “Stuart, will you marry me?” Stuart says it was “pure magic” because they were surrounded only by nature, the setting sun and one very excited Border Collie.

asheville claxton farm wedding

“A ‘desk job’ was in neither of our plans, and we liked that about one another,” Stuart says.

asheville claxton farm wedding

After a perfect mountaintop engagement, they hired planner Caroline Livengood (Asheville Event Co.) to make this nature-loving couple’s wedding vision a reality.

“Will and I wanted to get married in the mountains not only because of the beautiful scenery but also because it represents who we are and what makes us happy,” Stuart says. “Some of our very first dates were hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking in the landscapes and getting to know one another.”

They fell in love with Claxton Farm, a charming property nestled in a valley in Weaverville, NC, with a large, open field surrounded by small mountains, llamas, cows, miniature horses and goats. It felt like a place they’d just want to hang out, and its proximity to Asheville was a huge draw. The couple loves that Asheville has something for everyone: fantastic hikes, waterfalls, breweries, galleries, restaurants and activities for the less-outdoorsy.

RELATED: A Fairytale Wedding in the North Carolina Mountains

asheville claxton farm wedding

Stuart wanted a dress that was both elegant and tailored but still had a tiny bit of drama. This Carolina Herrera gown features a silk Mikado material, a V neck and back, tie waist, waist bow, and ball gown skirt. “I accessorized it with a long veil with floral appliqués to add a little bit of whimsy,” Stuart says.

After a fun Friday night and Saturday morning in downtown Asheville, guests headed out to the mountains for the 4 p.m. ceremony. Upon arrival, two elements were unmissable: The white sails of the tent against a dark mountain terrain, and a friendly, furry llama named Chocolate Chip, the couple’s unofficial greeter and mascot of the farm.

Another important factor of the day? The weather. Picking an outdoor venue with a limited indoor backup plan was a risk, but May 4 was a rain-free day historically in Asheville. However, as the weekend approached, meteorologists called for hail, thunder, lightning, and heavy downpours. “When this happens, you kind of have to adjust your whole attitude and learn to just go with it,” Stuart says.

asheville claxton farm wedding

All of the green — both in the thoughtful decorations and in the farm’s setting — make for the most stunning natural wedding venue.

asheville claxton farm wedding

Stuart and Will sought an environment that made them both feel happy and at peace. “On the day we visited [Claxton Farm], it was pouring rain, but something just felt inexplicably right,” Stuart says.

asheville claxton farm wedding

In addition to their wedding cake, the couple served delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in honor of Chocolate Chip. These party favors were adorned with a hand-illustrated Chocolate Chip Llama sticker that read “Chocolate Chip’s Cookies.”

asheville claxton farm wedding

Due to the ever-changing weather forecast, they opted for a clear tent for the ceremony (originally, it was supposed to be open-air).

asheville claxton farm wedding

Kristin Hussey at Sable & Gray created incredible, hand-illustrated signage and invitations using a combination of blue, green, gray, silver and gold hues, as well as illustrations of Jasper and Chocolate Chip to make the invitation suite unique and personal. She even made a map of Claxton, Asheville and the surrounding mountains.

As Stuart “trotted” (her word) down the muddy path to greet Will for their first look, lightning struck. As guests began to fill into the seats — stilettos sinking slightly in the wet grass — rain pattered on the translucent tent above. But as the bridal party filed out, followed by Stuart and her father, the rain stopped as if clicked off by a remote control, and within a few minutes, just as Stuart and Will were exchanging their very clever and personally written vows, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

A blue-hued, nature-inspired theme was woven throughout the covered ceremony, dinner tent and reception barn. Stuart was never a pink person, so they went with a cool color palette of various shades of blue, green and white, with both gold and silver accents throughout. “With the tent, I wanted to create an ethereal feeling with as much nature as possible,” Stuart says. In the barn, blue Moroccan-inspired lanterns dripped from the ceiling, illuminated by blue uplighting. Bar tables were adorned with votives, small bouquets and watercolor-inspired tablecloths. A lounge with a grass loveseat and chairs added to the outdoor effect.

RELATED: 8 Wedding Trends to Watch For

After the ceremony sprinkled with laughs and tears, 200 guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with locally curated wine options, a full bar and delicious bites of crab-stuffed mushrooms, Caprese skewers, chicken and waffle bites and bacon-wrapped shrimp. An acoustic trio played a variety of Stuart and Will’s classic rock and folk favorites while everyone excitedly geared up for the multi-course dinner and night of dancing ahead.

asheville claxton farm wedding

All smiles in this sweet capture of all of the guests right after the ceremony (and as the sun broke through!)

asheville claxton farm wedding

A vintage blue tandem bicycle at the front of the sailcloth tent propped up the seating chart. “We both love bicycles and thought that it was appropriate as we would be ‘riding off’ into our future together,” Stuart says.

asheville claxton farm wedding

Stuart wanted to give the effect of a floating bouquet, and we definitely think it worked.

asheville claxton farm wedding

Beautiful greenery-laden chandeliers and tall and short bouquets were placed throughout the tent and tables. The head table was lined with tall glass vases filled with hydrangea, anemone, garden roses, and hyacinth.

asheville claxton farm wedding

Each guest’s name was painted on a magnolia leaf. Glass plates continued the “see-through” vibe, as did ghost chairs and large cylindrical candle silos.

asheville claxton farm wedding

Guests had the option of filet mignon, local Sunburst trout, or chef’s choice vegetarian. Entrées were served with roasted root vegetables and crisp French green beans. The meal began with a mixed green salad with apples and goat cheese.

asheville claxton farm wedding

The almond cake with European buttercream frosting and layers of raspberry jam, raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries also featured a beautiful waterfall of sugar paste anemone flowers.

The delicious seated meal was rivaled only by an outdoor s’mores station and a hot pretzel station where soft pretzels could be drenched in local Lusty Monk Mustard or a chocolate dipping sauce. Stuart also planned a late-night surprise — Patron XO tequila shots — since Cinco de Mayo began at midnight. “It seemed to be a big hit, as the dance moves were on par for the rest of the evening,” Stuart laughs. These touches won’t soon be forgotten by the guests who danced the night away in the cozy pavilion to the tunes of The Band Punch.

Stuart and Will will honeymoon for three weeks in New Zealand in January 2020 (the seasons are reversed) to hike, chase wildlife, and just be together in the great outdoors … “plus, I love wine,” Stuart makes sure to add.

When she thinks back on her day, and what might have been a massive storm, Stuart says, “I relate it to not only relationships but to all marriages. There are going to be ups and downs, thunder and lightning as well as clear blue skies, but as long as you go into it with a clear mind and determination to both make yourself happy and your partner happy, it’s all worth it.” Stuart quickly learned that you cannot control every aspect of the day, and sometimes it’s the unexpected squalls that make the day more interesting and memorable.

asheville claxton farms wedding

The happy groom surrounded by friends

asheville claxton farm wedding

The father-daughter dance was to “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, and Will and Stuart danced their first dance as husband and wife to “Our House” by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

asheville claxton farm wedding

After a sparkler departure, the couple drove away through wind-whipped rain to their treehouse Airbnb in this 1973 lime green Superbeetle convertible, a nod to Stuart’s love of all things retro.

asheville claxton farms wedding

We wish you two (and Chocolate Chip the llama) a lifetime of bliss!

Thank you, Stuart and Will, for sharing your wedding story — and these gorgeous photos by Rob + Kristen — with us. Cheers to reaching many more summits together!

RESOURCES

Venue: Claxton Farm
Photographer: Rob + Kristen
Videographer: ByDesign Films
Bride’s gown: Carolina Herrera from Betty Bridal
Bridesmaids’ dresses (brand & store): Amsale from Bella Bridesmaids
Makeup: Layne Barter
Hair: Powder Me Pretty
Groom’s & groomsmen’s suits: Bruce Julian’s
Custom-made bowties: Knotty Tie
Invitations, programs & menu cards: Kristen Hussey at Sable & Gray
Flowers: Floressence Flowers
Catering: M7 Events
Music: Emerald Empire Band (ceremony/cocktail hour), The Band Punch (reception)
Cake: Gateaux Cakes and Pastries
Lighting design: Eric Winkenwerder
Tables/lighting/grass furniture/tablecloths/dinnerware: Classic Event Rental
Printed linens: La Tavola
SuperBeetle getaway car: Mingle Events

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