When the possibility for a second chance at love and marriage came along (thanks to a mutual friend with stellar matchmaking skills), Allison Wilson and Mark Greaney were all in. And when their friend was a bit slower to make introductions than Allison would’ve liked, the fearless dynamo took matters into her own hands. “Our friend kind of dragged her feet for a week, so I started following Mark on social media and commenting on some of his Instagram posts, which is not like me,” she says. Despite the bold, out-of-character move, Allison couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet the funny, intriguing author who used to collaborate with Tom Clancy and now pens his own best-selling series. A few text exchanges later, the two found themselves making plans for a dinner date. Much to Mark’s surprise, he had no first-date jitters to speak of, and Allison describes their immediate comfort level by saying, “It was like meeting an old friend.”
Though neither expected their first date to lead to marriage, it wasn’t long before Allison and Mark knew what the future held. The COVID shutdown brought them even closer, and eight months into dating, Mark knew it was time for an engagement. When Allison joined him on a work trip in Chicago, he mentioned offhandedly, “If you want to spend the morning running around and looking at rings, we can.” Little did he know Allison would find one within 45 minutes of their arrival. “He was going to head up to the hotel room, and there was a store right there,” Allison recalls. “I said, ‘I’m just going to run in there while you put your coat up.’” Mark had barely gotten upstairs before Allison called him to say she’d found the ring of her dreams — a vintage 1920s stunner with diamonds and sapphires.
With one part of the equation already handled, Mark began planning for an engagement in the Bahamas, during a vacation they’d already scheduled. However, Mark didn’t anticipate a pint-sized “hiccup” in the form of Allison’s youngest daughter, Sophie. In no uncertain terms, the 11-year-old let Mark know she wanted to be privy to any engagement plans before they happened. The future stepdad took her words to heart, postponing his proposal plans until it was the right time and place to follow through with that promise. With another trip scheduled for later in January, this time to New York City, the author sat down to compose one of his most important pieces of work … letters to Allison’s three children, letting them know of his intentions to marry their mother.
The proposal story goes a little something like this: Mark invited Allison to join him in Manhattan for 24 hours so they could have dinner with his literary agent. “This was a period right before I had a book out, and there was all of this travel being planned, so I was buying plane tickets left and right,” explains Mark. He was already in New York when Allison sent him a text inquiring about her flight information, and when Mark double-checked his email, he discovered he’d forgotten to book her a ticket in all of the chaos. “I’d been planning it for weeks, and this was 3 p.m. the day before she’s supposed to come up for 24 hours so I can propose,” he says. “I immediately called the airlines, and I was like, ‘Whatever it costs is what I’m going to pay.’” Despite the initial scramble, the rest of the proposal went off without a hitch, and Mark asked Allison to marry him on a bench in picturesque Central Park. The answer was a clear “yes.”
Following the proposal, plans ensued for a celebratory ceremony and bash at Allison’s childhood home in Chickasaw Gardens, located across from the Memphis Country Club. It was an obvious choice for the couple since the century-old residence holds such a special place in their hearts. In fact, the old Tudor house, which sits on almost two acres, has hosted all of Allison’s sisters’ weddings and served as the family home for many years. “I believe it was built in the 1920s,” Allison tells us. “Clarence Saunders, who started Piggly Wiggly, lived in this house while he was building the Memphis Pink Palace.” Not only is the home’s history enchanting, but so is the interior. Allison’s mother has taken her creative vision and turned the house into a magical wonderland, brimming with eclectic antique pieces and an art collection that includes paintings by Renoir and Georgia O’Keefe — the perfect wedding venue if ever there was one.
Mindful of COVID, the couple chose to wed outdoors, setting a date for September and taking every precaution they could think of to keep their guests safe. “It was actually during a time when the COVID numbers were going down,” says Mark. “All of the vendors went out of their way to explain everything they were doing to be safe, too.” The couple sat families together so as to appropriately social distance, and even hired a DJ rather than a band to cut down on numbers. A VIP area was sectioned off for elderly friends and family as an extra safety measure.
For Mark and Allison, stress-free planning was the name of the game, especially given that it was a second marriage for both. With that in mind, one of their first steps in the process was to reach out to a dear family friend — and fabulous event planner — Warner Moore of Warner Moore Events. “It was his vision. We put it in his lap and told him we knew he knew what he was doing,” says Allison, who was happy to relinquish the reins — particularly since Warner and her mom have a long history of collaborating on events. “He and my mom are best friends from before I was born,” she says. “His two daughters got married at the house, too, so this was about the sixth wedding they’ve done together there. When the two of them get together, their creativity is off the charts!” With the vision essentially built-in, Allison and Mark put their own spin on it by choosing the color scheme, selecting the menu, and finding opportunities to include a few special and unexpected touches.
The ultimate deal-finder, Allison found her boho-style dress on eBay for $399 and ordered it sight-unseen. “It was gorgeous, and it literally cost less than the calligraphy on the invitations that we sent out!” she exclaims. She found her shoes on eBay as well, a pair of white Badgley Mischka heels that sparkled beneath her gown. Eager to make her bridesmaids (which included her two daughters, Sophie and Ava) feel comfortable, Allison let everyone choose their own dress. “We were getting married in a garden, so I envisioned iris blue and greens for our colors,” she tells us. “I asked everybody to pick an emerald dress that they liked; it’s my second wedding, so I didn’t want to make everyone wear the same dress.” The groom chose a custom-made suit by Southern designer Billy Reid.
On the afternoon of September 26, the bridal party gathered at the Memphis Country Club to get ready, then walked across the street for the big event. The warm weather and beautiful built-in backdrop made first looks and pre-ceremony photo ops a breeze, even if wrangling the younger half of the bridal party turned out to be a bit more challenging. “We were doing all the wedding photography,” says Mark, “and I look over to see Allison’s son, Kemmons, in his suit, whizzing down a zipline. Sophie was basically squatting in poison ivy … and this is all before the wedding! So, there was this whole herding cats thing while we were getting pictures done, but it all worked out.”
“It made for some cute pics,” adds Allison, laughing.
Despite some funny pre-wedding antics, all of the kids came through in a big way, playing a significant part in helping the couple tie the knot. “We gave them each a little role where they felt like it was all of us coming together,” explains Allison. “I love that we were all marrying each other. That was a big thing for me.” Her son, Kemmons, walked her down the aisle and gave her away. Sophie announced the newlyweds for the first time. And her oldest daughter, Ava, surprised them by performing two songs during the ceremony. Mark’s 15-year-old nephew was his best man. With Allison’s brother-in-law officiating, it was truly a family affair, and the couple gazed into each other’s eyes, took their vows, and began their life together as Mr. and Mrs. Greaney.
Though COVID posed a few restrictions on the menu and meal setup, the buffet-style dinner from River Oaks Restaurant was a sight to behold. Warner put his magic touch on everything, interspersing greenery and florals among the food-filled platters. Candelabras offered a refined touch to the tablescape, accented by smaller votives for warmth and ambiance. Guests feasted on lobster lollipops, Asian buttermilk slaw chicken sandwiches, shrimp, tuna tartare, and an exquisite charcuterie spread. The bride and groom, who didn’t take the time to sit down and eat at the wedding, wound up being sent home with the leftovers, which they thoroughly enjoyed later on. In fact, the bride says they dug into it the following morning for a fun albeit peculiar breakfast. “We woke up the next day and ate tartare out of a Ziploc,” she muses. “Classy.”
For the grand cake cutting, Allison and Mark chose a four-tiered masterpiece from The Flour Garden, which Warner festooned with fresh flowers and set into an ornate cake stand. Allison also surprised Mark with a groom’s cake that incorporated some of his favorite pastimes. “Allison had a groom’s cake done for me, and it was fabulous,” says Mark. “I’m a scuba diver, and I have two rescue dogs that are a big part of my world, so the cake had a gelatin ocean with a little scuba diver in it.”
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When the evening came to a close, guests lined up to bid farewell to the newlyweds, who climbed into a Suburban and headed home. “We took the dogs out, and then we sat in bed and talked about the night and relived it,” says Mark, who considers it one of the most poignant moments of their wedding day. “It was one of my favorite parts of the whole night to rehash how awesome it was,” Allison agrees.
Bringing family and friends together was another memorable highlight for the couple. “It was fun for us to see other people having fun,” says Mark. “It’s that whole neat thing of getting people together that you know and care about, who don’t know each other — it’s so rare and so cool.”
Allison adds, “You get to see your whole world in your little bubble for a minute.”
Thank you for sharing your magical day with us, Allison and Mark, and thanks to Taylor Square Photography for the incredible wedding photos.
Ceremony and reception venues: Allison’s family home in Chickasaw Gardens
Photography: Mackenzie Rue and Madeline Beck of Taylor Square Photography
Wedding planner: Warner Moore of Warner Moore Events
Bride’s hair: Ginny Glenn Hall with The Loop Hair Studio
Bride’s makeup: Maggie Goodner
Florals: Le Fleur
Cake: The Flour Garden
Calligraphy: Rachel Fisher Calligraphy
Bride’s gown: Willowby by Watters
Bride’s shoes: Badgley Mischka
Bridesmaids’ dresses: “Choose-your-own” emerald green dresses from various vendors
Groom’s tux: Billy Reid
Caterer: River Oaks Restaurant
DJ: DJ Jordan Rogers with Tiger City DJs
Rentals: White Door Events
Preparation accommodations: Memphis Country Club
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