Birmingham native Mary Elizabeth Harmon and Tyler Askren of Muscatine, IA, grew up practically worlds apart — about 800 miles, in fact — so it wasn’t until their freshman year on campus at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX, that their paths crossed at a group hangout one day on campus. Despite the geographic differences in their upbringing, these two quickly discovered, while swinging in their hammocks on a spring day, that they had much in common — from their passion for mission work and their strong faith, to music and Greek life at TCU. They spent hours chatting that day and hung out a few times afterward, and then Mary Elizabeth was Tyler’s date to his fraternity’s formal. But then the summer went by without much contact, and Mary Elizabeth returned to TCU assuming that things were over between them. “Well, I realized how wrong I was when he showed up at the front door of the Chi Omega house and asked me with a smile, ‘What are you doing on October 3?’” says Mary Elizabeth. “As it turned out, Tyler had purchased concert tickets to see Zac Brown Band with me in mind over the summer.” They started dating that fall and have been together ever since.
Then in April 2017, a girls’ night turned into the surprise of Mary Elizabeth’s life. She thought she was attending a church service and dinner with a friend, and instead found herself walking down a path toward a familiar face standing beneath globe lights hanging from the trees above. “I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized what was happening,” says Mary Elizabeth. “Tyler walked toward me with a huge smile, took me by the hand, and asked me, ‘Are you ready?’ He had strung up the lights, built a table that held a gorgeous bouquet of my favorite flowers, sunflowers, a Bible, some photos of us and a red ring box.”
He read her a letter and several passages from the Bible. They talked and prayed together and then he got down on one knee, and before he could even get the question out, Mary Elizabeth responded with “Yes, of course!” They celebrated over dinner, where Mary Elizabeth got to hear all of the funny details leading up to the proposal — including the 150 feet of extension cord that Tyler had to run from a friend’s car to power the bistro lights hanging in the trees.
As they began the planning process, it was most important to Mary Elizabeth and Tyler to keep the focus of their wedding day on their faith. “It is because of our love for Christ that we love one another, so we wanted that to be the center,” says Mary Elizabeth. “We also wanted to have plenty of time for food, fellowship and dancing. Tyler and I talked, and we wanted the night to be an enjoyable, relaxed and fun evening.”
With those priorities in mind, they decided on a winter wedding in Mary Elizabeth’s home state, and easily chose the beautiful Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, AL, as the perfect spot to accommodate their vision for a faith-filled, fun and relaxed wedding celebration. The venue’s proximity to both Birmingham and Atlanta for the many out-of-state guests flying in, on-site accommodations and ability to host a large guest list made it logistically perfect for the day. But it was the aesthetic details of Pursell Farms’ wedding venue, Hamilton Place, that really made the venue ideal for Mary Elizabeth and Tyler’s wedding weekend. “The grounds are gorgeous, the scenery is beautiful and peaceful, and the space was exactly what we needed for our larger guest list,” says Mary Elizabeth. “What makes Pursell Farms what it is, however, is the staff. Everyone was so hospitable, thoughtful and servant-hearted. We were very well taken care of!”
With a venue so beautiful, minimal additional adornment was required. Berry- and blush-colored blooms, twinkling candlelight and thoughtful, personal touches here and there would perfectly enhance the space to suit the bride and groom. They selected dapper midnight blue three-piece suits and garnet ties for the groom and his groomsmen, and Mary Elizabeth’s gorgeous bridesmaids would wear floor-length garnet dresses and luxurious fur stoles — the best accessory for a winter bridal party. And then, of course, there was the beautiful bride. With expert guidance from Sloane Jones at Birmingham bridal boutique Ivory & White and support from some of the most important women in her life, Mary Elizabeth selected a gorgeous Romona Keveza fit-and-flare gown paired with an elegant A-line Monique Lhuillier skirt she would wear for the ceremony, and then remove for the reception to reveal the gown’s more modern silhouette underneath.
On a gorgeous winter day at 4 p.m., with more than 350 guests standing to welcome her, the bride made her way down the aisle toward her groom to “Be Thou My Vision.” The intimate ceremony was beautifully centered on Mary Elizabeth and Tyler’s faith, as they always intended. With their 26-person bridal party flanking them and a light-filled tent full of loved ones who traveled from all over the country to celebrate their love, the bride and groom read traditional vows, exchanged rings, worshipped and prayed together. After a kiss to seal the deal, the new Mr. and Mrs. recessed up the aisle to “Sweet Home Alabama” — “for obvious reasons,” says Mary Elizabeth.
The laid-back reception was brimming with love and joy and all matter of delicious culinary delights. Food stations themed for different states relevant to the couple — where they’re from, where they met, and where they’d start their lives together — provided guests with an array of delectable meal options. Alabama was represented with a grits bar, Iowa had its own salad spread, Texas’ signature Tex-Mex cuisine was present via a taco station, and the Kansas station was barbecue central. With full bellies and joyous hearts, guests hit the dance floor with the bride and groom, and at the end of the night, ushered them out with sparklers waving.
Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into your enchanting day, Mary Elizabeth and Tyler! We wish you all the best in your life together!
Photography: BeLight Photography
Day-of coordinator: Leah Sucic
Wedding dress: Ivory & White (Dress: Romona Keveza; Skirt: Monique Lhuillier; Veil: Untamed Petals)
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Azazie
Hair/makeup: The Hair & Makeup Collective
Groom and groomsmen attire: The Groomsman Suit
Merchandise/stationery design: White Oak Calligraphy
Venue: Hamilton Place at Pursell Farms
Tent: PRE Event Resources
Draping & Lighting: On-Site Productions
Catering: Pursell Farms
Cake: Pursell Farms
Ceremony music: Ashley and John-Mark Dorough
Band: All in One
Guest accommodations: Pursell Farms
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