Ellen Singleton and Matt Boker found each other in the Big Apple, bonded over literature, and promptly began dating. But first, there was college. Ellen, a therapist from Jackson, Tennessee, moved to Nashville, where she received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Trevecca. Meanwhile, Matt was getting his Master’s from Pratt School of Design (an alma mater he happens to share with their wedding coordinator), in Brooklyn, New York. After 10+ years, Ellen got the itch to move to New York City, and it’s a decision that led her straight into Matt’s arms. They met at church and shared an affinity for author Brené Brown, Old Fashioned cocktails and Southern hospitality, and they dated for about a year and a half before they found themselves with a proposal on the horizon.

When asked about how the engagement story unfolded, Ellen says, “It was pretty magical. We were in Seattle, visiting Matt’s side of the family, and we were just kind of hanging out around town. We were supposed to meet some friends from Nashville for dinner. We were on the way there, and he just said, ‘Hey, we haven’t seen this part of Seattle I’ve wanted to show you.’ So he pulled off the road, and we started walking out to this dock.” But unbeknownst to her, the surprise was almost thwarted. “Crazy enough — and you know, we’re moments away from him dropping down on a knee and saying the whole deal — we ran into some friends of his who knew what was happening but didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet.” Matt’s quick thinking kept the friends from inadvertently letting her know about the ring he was hiding, and the rest of the engagement went off without a hitch. “We went out on this little dock, and he dropped down, and I was really caught off guard. He said a lot of sweet things. Then he said ‘Will you marry me?’ and I said ‘Yes!’”

But the surprises didn’t end there. Just after Ellen accepted Matt’s hand in marriage, she turned to see a boat filled with their family and friends, along with a sign that read, ‘She said yes!’ And with that, the newly engaged couple climbed aboard to enjoy drinks and food with their loved ones while sailing around Lake Washington.

Boker couple Southern hospitality wedding

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Boker!

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As they embarked on the planning process, the couple says they landed on their location first. An affinity for Southern hospitality, combined with the desire to have as many of their family and friends as possible in attendance, made Nashville their top choice. Of their chosen locale, Ellen says, “We knew we would have people from New York who had never been to the South — who had never been to Nashville — as well as people from Germany, Canada and Australia … so it was a bit of a destination for them, too. We wanted to roll out the Southern hospitality in all the ways we could. That’s what helped us land on Nashville.”

Sara-Jane Kerstetter, owner and lead designer of Selah-Vié, took the Boker’s wedding plans to the next level, offering suggestions they may not have otherwise considered. “Before we met Sara-Jane, we had visited the Noelle Hotel, and that’s where we ended up having our rehearsal dinner and our welcome drinks. That was kind of a big vision — art deco. We were trying not to be as cliché as The Great Gatsby, but that was kind of the inspiration. Especially with us living in New York — that urban lifestyle.”

While the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception locations proved to be easy decisions, Ellen’s wedding dress presented a bit more of a challenge. While shopping in New York, Ellen found the perfect dress but wanted her mother to be there when she bought it. She was in luck. After a bit of research, she identified a boutique in Nashville that had the same dress and scheduled an appointment for a fitting. “I loved it, and it was the dress, but they ended up ordering the wrong size. So, it ended up being a bit more stressful. It came to New York with me and had to go through some alterations. Sarah-Jane really helped save the day. It all ended up working out, but it was one of those moments where you know something’s going to go wrong at your wedding. Of all things, it was the dress — one of the most important things!”

first looks- bride with flowers- Southern hospitality wedding

A dress blunder couldn’t keep this bride from looking stunning in her gown! Here, she has a moment of reflection before first looks.

Groom adjusts bowtie

The handsome groom adjusts his bowtie while getting ready for first looks.

Thankfully, there were no other notable hiccups in the planning process. As their April 20, 2019, wedding day approached, guests began arriving from far and wide, fulfilling Matt and Ellen’s wish for a chance to celebrate with lots of family and friends. Pre-wedding festivities included the stunning rehearsal dinner at the Noelle Hotel, and even a night of karaoke at kitschy Nashville hot spot, Santa’s Pub.

As the big day arrived, the bride got ready with her mom and bridesmaids at an Airbnb, giving special attention to following through on the concept of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. “I had a handkerchief that was actually a baby bonnet that someone gave my mom when I was little — you snipped it at certain key places, and it turned into this beautiful, embroidered handkerchief. The idea of the baby bonnet was that when you got married, you would use it as a handkerchief on your wedding day, and I loved that. That was my old. My shoes were blue, and I borrowed a friend’s veil. The dress was my new.”

The bride getting ready, with her mother and mother-in-law

Ellen was fortunate enough to have help from both her mother and mother-in-law as she prepared for her walk down the aisle.

old handkerchief carried by bride as "something old" at Southern hospitality wedding.

How wonderful is this baby bonnet-turned-handkerchief carried by the bride to represent “something old”?

The gorgeous flower arrangements, created by Lauren Atkinson of LMA Designs, added natural beauty to the big day, with anemone’s offering a pop of navy blue to the bride’s lush white and green bouquet. Glossy magnolia leaves accented the show-stopping florals. “I wanted to do magnolia blooms,” Ellen tells us, “but they bruise too easily. So we ended up just using the magnolia leaves. I love that dark green contrasted with the white.”

Ellen and Matt decided to do a first look for practical purposes, relishing the opportunity to give each other pre-ceremony cards. Ellen also gifted Matt with a journal — one full of memories and experiences that documented their year of engagement.

Baby's breath lines the pews at Scarritt Bennett

The couple went for a more minimalistic floral aesthetic for the ceremony. “Scarritt Bennett is such a beautiful space; we felt like we didn’t need to do too much. We just did baby’s breath around the pews and then some candles at the altar.”

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bride reads card given to her by groom at Southern hospitality wedding

Ellen enjoys a sentimental pre-wedding moment, as she reads a card from her husband-to-be.

groom reads journal given to him by bride

“Matt’s sort of a sentimental guy, so I think he really appreciated having all of that written down, so we can always remember and recall that,” Ellen says of the journal she gave him.

bride with bridesmaids and flower girl

Ellen poses with her picture-perfect bridesmaids and sweet little flower girl on the grounds of Scarritt Bennett.

Groomsmen at Scarritt Bennet- Southern hospitality wedding

The groomsmen are looking dapper in their tuxes from theblacktux.com.

line up of books given to bridal party at Southern hospitality wedding- Jayber Crow

“One of my favorite books is called Jayber Crow, by an author named Wendell Berry,” Ellen tells us. “Matt read that when we first started dating, and he says that’s how he fell in love with me … so we gave a copy of that book to all of our wedding party. We tried to pull in some sentimental pieces as it made sense for us.”

The ceremony was officiated by Matt’s mentor, his small group leader from Seattle, who was a big part of his life in junior high and high school. It was essential to Ellen to ensure Matt had elements of his life incorporated into the fabric of their wedding day as well. The same holds true for the vows they exchanged, which were a blend of what she and Matt both wanted. “I was feeling more drawn toward the traditional vows, and Matt was drawn toward writing our own, so we did a bit of both.”

Once they had been pronounced husband and wife, the newly married couple made an undeniably memorable ceremony exit. “We hopped on a trolley, which was so fun,” Ellen tells us, “and we had the wedding party hop on there with us!”

bride and groom walk up the aisle at chapel

Choosing locations for the ceremony and reception was a relatively easy decision for the couple. “We did the ceremony at Scarritt Bennett, which was a bucket list for me. And with Matt being an architect — once he saw the space, it was like, if there’s any way to make it work …”

bride and groom cheering outside chapel

It’s official. Congratulations to you, Mr. and Mrs. Boker!

bride and groom head to trolley after ceremony

This trolley, from FADDS Nashville Party Bus, made for a grand ceremony exit.

groom with champagne in trolley headed to Southern hospitality wedding

Dubbing one of their groomsmen “Captain of the Trolley,” they bestowed him with a captain’s hat and put him in charge of the playlist. The champagne flowed, snacks were passed around, and the wedding party had much-deserved time to celebrate with the Bokers as they rode out to their reception at the Loveless Cafe.

Matt had never been to the South before dating Ellen, but quickly developed a fondness for it. His fascination with all things Southern, from hot chicken to Jason Isbel, lead the couple to create a Southern-centric wedding day. Opting for a family-style dinner, guests were impressed by huge platters of fried chicken and steak. “We had so many guests who had never been to the South, and they were like, “‘Good grief!’” Ellen says. “We just ate and drank to our heart’s content.” Guests sipped signature cocktails — Old Fashioneds, of course. As Ellen puts it, “You can’t come to Tennessee and not have a whiskey drink!” And what would a trip to Loveless Cafe be without biscuits and preserves? The bride and groom also threw in some traditionally Southern veggie options, such as Brussels sprouts, but splurged when it came to dessert, opting for a small cake for photography purposes, but highlighting the Loveless Cafe banana pudding instead.

While she didn’t have many stipulations for the reception, Ellen had her heart set on live music — a detail that brought their reception to life in a truly Nashville way. During the planning process, she told her husband-to-be, “Matt, this is in Nashville, and we’ve got to have a live band.” She goes on to say that it’s one of the things guests still talk about to this day, adding, “Everybody was ready for a good time.” And a good time they had, with the bride and groom kicking off the night by having their first dance to Ryan Adams’ “Sweet Caroline.”

bride and groom at Scarritt Bennett

“Our entrance to the reception was one of those moments where you think, I know I’m never going to forget this. We walked in to ‘New York, New York’ and it was just that visual — everyone is on their feet, and all of the details you’ve worked so hard on — it was just incredible.”

table settings at Southern hospitality wedding

Exquisite settings lined the reception tables, thoughtfully planned by coordinator Sara-Jane Kerstetter of Selah-Vié.

bride and groom sit and watch reception

Their reception, held at the barn space at the Loveless Cafe, gave their wedding authentic Southern flair.

Ellen says everything happened so quickly after that they blinked, and their wedding was a memory. “One day after the wedding, we were talking, and Matt said something like, ‘We never even cut the cake.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, we did, Matt!’ He just forgot; it was just such a blur. Sure enough, later, we were looking at pictures, and there was a picture of us cutting the cake and feeding it to each other. It was such a whirlwind.”

To close out the night, the bride and groom exited to the festive light of sparklers, running out to their getaway car — a convertible Ford Mustang. Their final destination of the evening was the Noelle Hotel, but first, they made a quick pit stop at Sonic to satisfy some late-night cravings! How very Southern, indeed.

bride and groom cut the cake at their Southern hospitality wedding

Caught up in the magic of the evening, the groom later forgot he’d cut the cake with his new wife. But we have the proof!

Traditional wedding cake

This beautiful cake, by Nashville Sweets, was available for anyone who wanted a slice. But we hear the banana pudding may have stolen the show!

Neon sign at Loveless Cafe- Southern hospitality wedding

The iconic sign at Loveless Cafe provided the perfect, romantic backdrop for this late-night lovers’ kiss.

Thank you for sharing your wedding journey with us, Ellen and Matt. We wish you many years of love and happiness, infused with endless Southern hospitality! And thank you to BlushByB for allowing us to experience the Boker’s wedding through your photos.

RESOURCES

Ceremony venue: Scarritt Bennett Wightman Chapel
Reception venue: The Barn at Loveless Cafe
Wedding coordination: Sara-Jane Kerstetter of Selah-Vié
Photographer: Brooke Davis Johnson of BlushByB
Videography: Dogwood Films
Floral design: Lauren Marie Atkinson of LMA Designs
Stationery: Minted.com
Calligraphy: Ellen Singleton (Yes, the bride did it on her own!)
Hair and makeup: Hunter Paige
Bride’s gown: Anne Barge
Bride’s shoes: Badgley Mischka
Bridesmaids’ dresses: azazie.com
Groom and groomsmen attire: TheBlackTux.com
Caterer: Loveless Cafe
Cake: Nashville Sweets
Entertainment: The Music City Sound, Russell Davis at Wedding Musicians Company
Transportation: FADDS Nashville Party Bus Party Trolley

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