The day before their Nashville nuptials Mary McCluggage and Ryan Keith invited guests to a welcome party, complete with an Americana theme. The barbecue before they said “I do” introduced friends and family members to the South. From Los Angeles and New York, respectively, Mary and Ryan welcomed guests with open arms. “We wanted our guests to taste the South and listen to country music, and we wanted this night to feel distinctly different from the formal wedding reception the next day,” Mary explains. The wedding itself was held at Cathedral of the Incarnation, followed by cocktails, dinner and dancing at the McCluggage Home & Gardens. But first, the welcome party.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

The soon-to-be newlyweds on the night before their wedding.

A year prior to the April 2018 wedding celebrations, Ryan proposed. “Ryan’s birthday was approaching, and I was planning a fun-filled weekend with his friends and family … or so I thought,” Mary tells the story. “Ryan had different plans for this weekend, plans that included him getting down on one knee in our future home, me saying ‘yes’ to our forever together, and us honky tonkin’ with both our immediate and extended families who flew in for the surprise. He, of course, included our sweet dog, Sully (named after the bar where we met), in the proposal with red roses on his collar.”

With guests coming from both coasts, Mary and Ryan planned a full weekend of fun — starting with the welcome party. “The incorporation of red, white and blue into our welcome barbecue was a no-brainer for the McCluggage family,” Mary says of the planning process. “Growing up in Pasadena, CA, my parents always hosted a very memorable Fourth of July party every year, and many of our wedding guests share fond memories from the annual event. The theme felt like an homage to our favorite holiday coupled with a true Southern welcome.” Relaxed, yet refined, the soirée was centered around a palette of red, white and blue, plus personal touches that tell the story of the couple.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

The Belle Meade Plantation set the scene for the celebration.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Doubling as a cooler, this canoe was a unique element and conversation piece.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Red, white and blue were everywhere!

The theme was tastefully executed, with the help of H Three Events, and the carriage house at Belle Meade Plantation was the ideal setting for the event. “Ryan and I absolutely loved standing with our families as we each said hello to every single guest as they arrived to the carriage house. It was the perfect moment to soak it all in that the wedding weekend had finally arrived.” Guests were greeted by the patriotic color scheme, which was found everywhere from the charming arrangements to the koozies for beer. The evening was complete with dining, drinking and dancing — all in celebration of the happy couple.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Red, white and blue table settings were thoughtfully planned to be festive yet tasteful.

“As guests arrived, they found their assigned tables named after many Nashville establishments and honky tonks that Ryan and I love. From Santa’s Pub to Loveless Café to Sportsman’s, Ryan’s old employer while at Vanderbilt,” Mary explains. “We also created custom Hatch Show Print-style posters that flanked the entryway of the carriage house as a nod to the well-known country music artwork local to Nashville. Additionally, guests donned red and blue bandanas to add to the theme. We provided this fun ‘flare’ in their welcome bags – complete with a custom ribbon that advised our friends – ‘Don’t worry what to wear, here’s your BBQ flare.’ Decked in their red, white and blue, guests played corn hole, tasted bourbon at the bourbon bar, adorned their drinks with bacon and indulged in biscuits and fried chicken from Loveless Café.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Signage saying “One Night Only BBQ Before They Say I Do” framed the doorway to the carriage house.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

As a nod to Nashville and the spots they love, table assignments were named after local joints.

Related: Hook, Line & Sinker: An Unforgettable Rehearsal Dinner

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Guests took advantage of the plantation’s green areas to play games, such as corn hole.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

The bourbon tasting bar featured Belle Meade Bourbon, Blade & Bow, Old Forester and Old Hickory.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

The setting perfectly fit the theme.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Following the color palette of red, white and blue, flower arrangements were scattered around the party.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Simple touches gave this casual affair an air of sophistication.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

“My favorite details were the personalized buttons of me and Ryan as little leaguers,” Mary shares. “They were a fun personal touch for our friends to add to their barbecue attire and a nod to our shared love of baseball. We also tied in this theme as we served an extra dessert of Culver’s Custard in Yankees and Dodgers baseball caps.”

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

Everyone — young and old — donned their red, white and blue.

BBQ Before They Say “I Do” : An Americana Welcome Party

After a successful wedding party, everyone got a good night’s sleep to be well rested for the following day’s wedding celebrations!

Hours of dancing to a live band capped off the evening of fun. “We were in a state of pure bliss after dinner when the band started playing,” Mary shares. “It truly felt like we were out on Broadway belting out lyrics to country classics with all of our favorite people in one place.”

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