“Weddings cost a lot of money, and we wanted to be good stewards of where that money was going,” explains Elam Freeman of the decision to host her and husband Spencer Freeman’s wedding reception at Nashville’s The Café at Thistle Farms. “I have always admired Magdalene House and Thistle Farms as a sustainable nonprofit and social enterprise, so when I heard that The Café at Thistle Farms rented out their space for events, I was sold!” Thistle Farms’ mission is to heal, empower and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. The organization encompasses Magdalene, a residential program, a bath and body care product line, marketplace, workshop, education and training center and The Café at Thistle Farms.
Following Elam and Spencer’s wedding ceremony at Owen Chapel just south of Nashville in Brentwood, The Café at Thistle Farms welcomed 100 guests for the reception. “It was so special that the waitstaff were women who had been through the Magdalene program and were now employed by Thistle Farms. In just a few hours, they transformed the space from its regular use as a cafe into a reception venue with everything set up just as we wanted,” Elam tells us. “They took pride in every detail and in addition, joined in on the dancing at one point to show us a few dance moves!”
Nine months earlier, when Elam still answered to Elam Mangum, Spencer ask her to be his wife. The pair met during their freshman year at Pepperdine University (in a class led by the minister who would later officiate their wedding) in Malibu, California, and they began dating their junior year. In August of 2015, while Elam was living in Malibu, Spencer returned from a summer in Tel Aviv, and upon his return, he surprised Elam with a beachfront proposal. As is common with engagements, the bride-to-be was totally surprised.
Then, the wedding planning began.
“It was important to us to have a simply, socially conscious and meaningful wedding and reception. We wanted to focus mostly on being with our close friends and immediate family members, so we kept it small,” Elam tells us. With the couple still in California, it was left up to the bride’s mother to handle the majority of the details for their May 2016 wedding in Nashville. “At the end of the day, my mom was the real MVP. In true fashion, she gave every detail attention and truly made sure all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted.”
Each detail was simple, yet perfect. Elam wore an understated lace gown, and her matron of honor wore a neutral dress; the groom donned a sophisticated tux. The floral arrangements and décor were kept to a minimum but livened up the chapel and reception space. Elam was attracted to the chapel for its simple, historic elegance and to the cafe for its rustic feel. “One special thing we did décor-wise was to hang a painting from my family home over the pulpit area [in the chapel].” This work of art depicts faith, hope and love, and it was painted by local artist Kim Thomas.
Post ceremony, guests made their way to the cafe for a buffet-style dinner with Mediterranean flavors. After dinner, guests dined on desserts, including pumpkin spice cake, gluten and dairy-free cupcakes, carrot cupcakes, key lime squares and vegan dark chocolate brownies.
Although the wedding and reception were the key events of the weekend, there were other memorable activities on the itinerary. “The days prior to the wedding, we spent time with out-of-town friends giving them a taste of Nashville,” Elam explains. Guests arrived on Thursday evening and made their way to Acme Feed & Seed for dinner and drinking. On Friday, the day before the wedding, friends and family met at Five Daughters Bakery before going for a hike at Radnor Lake. Following the rehearsal dinner at Sopapilla’s, the boys hit Broadway while the gals sipped cocktails at a few of Nashville’s trendiest bars: Old Glory, Bastion and No. 308.
In lieu of a bridesmaids’ luncheon, Elam was joined by some of her closest friends for a bridal breakfast at The Well Coffeehouse.
We wish the happy couple a lifetime of happiness!
Ceremony: Owen Chapel Church of Christ in Brentwood, TN
Reception venue: The Café at Thistle Farms (The cafe is currently closed for renovations and will reopen again this summer.)
Photography: Cecily Breeding
Bride’s gown: BHLDN
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Anthropologie
Hair: The Blowout Co. (Leslie Embry, the owner of Blowout Co, was Elam’s middle school history teacher, and Leslie’s husband was her basketball coach!)
Makeup: Sarah Owen (bride’s cousin)
Groomsmen’s formalwear: Men’s Warehouse in Green Hills
Invitations: Paperless Post
Flowers: Terri Wood
Catering and cake: Brooke O’Dell
Ceremony music: The Corwin Trio
Reception music: DJ DanCo.
Ceremony day-of director: Lindsey Campbell
Reception day-of coordinator: Courtney Sobieralski at Thistle Farms
Guest accommodations: Four Points by Sheraton – Brentwood and The Hilton Garden Inn – Brentwood
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