Every so often, we get a wedding where it’s impossible to choose one favorite image of their day. We found ourselves getting lost in every picture of Dawn and Lee’s joyful and musical celebration in the woods of Alabama. The couple wanted a destination wedding weekend where friends and family could come together and celebrate their marriage, and they knew Camp Skyline was the perfect location to do just that. If the groom rocking out on stage during the reception is any indication, then this was one heck of a party!
Photography by Dixie Pixel.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Let go of all of the details and the stress the weekend of the wedding and try to just be present. We made it a priority to plan a wedding that helped us do that. Having a whole weekend at the summer camp with family and friends made it easy to see everyone and actually spend quality time with all of the people we love most in the world. Because our rehearsal was on Friday and the wedding was on Sunday (the wedding was over Labor Day weekend), we had a very relaxed Saturday to just take it all in and spend time with everyone. This also meant I got to take advantage of the camp water slide and play kickball, which was a big stress reliever.
Dawn’s incredible vintage wedding dress is a family heirloom, and her custom veil was made using the original gown’s train. Her romantic bouquet was filled with garden roses, dahlias, and ranunculus in shades of peach and pink, accented with dusty miller and a sweet cascading ribbon.
Alterations, modifications and veil were made by Rodica Lazarian at Couture Bridal Design in Atlanta, GA.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Decide early what aspects of the planning you care most about, focus on those, and then, if you are fortunate enough to have help, pass off the other duties. This will also help you later on, if things aren’t quite working out. If it’s one of the things you really care about, then it’s worth the effort to make it work. If it’s not, you can let it go. Focus your efforts on what will matter most to you.
“We both grew up visiting the Mentone area with our families. Lee would often stay at DeSoto State Park with his Mimi and Grandaddy. Lee’s Mimi also visited the area when she was a girl, as she had family there, and would tell stories about riding to the top of the mountain in a horse-drawn buggy. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting with my great-grandfather on the front porch of the Mentone Springs Hotel, which was built in 1884, but sadly, burned down a few years ago. With its beautiful scenery, rich Alabama history and ties to both of our families, it seemed like the perfect place to get away and celebrate with everyone. Because the hotel I had originally envisioned was now gone, we had to get a little creative with finding a venue to accommodate not only the size of our wedding, but also one that reflected the charm of Mentone. We wanted the wedding, really the whole weekend, to feel magical. We wanted our guests to feel somewhat removed from the every day and immersed in natural beauty of their surroundings. We also wanted to spend as much time as possible with all of the friends and family that would be coming.”
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, relaxed, natural.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We were very lucky to have an officiant who really understood us and how to make the ceremony reflect our relationship. He guided us through the planning and was such a wonderful presence. For the most part, we followed his template, adjusting it to reflect our vision of how we wanted the ceremony to go.
What was your ceremony music? Because Lee is a musician, the music for the ceremony – and really the whole weekend – was important. The music we chose for the ceremony was mostly traditional hymns that were favorites of Lee’s maternal grandparents, both of whom sang in and led church choirs most of their lives. All the music was played on guitar by two of Lee’s best friends. I chose a favorite love song by the band Big Star to walk down the aisle.
Seating of the Mothers: “I’d Rather Have Jesus” by Rhea F. Miller
Wedding Party Processional: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” words by Robert Robinson and music by John Wyeth
Bridal Processional: “Thirteen” by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton
Hymn: “Just As I Am” words by Charlotte Elliott and music by William B. Bradbury
Who officiated your ceremony? Rev. Matt Nelson was the minister at the neighborhood church we attended. He and Lee had developed a close friendship soon after Lee moved to Atlanta. He was our first choice—we couldn’t imagine anyone else filling the role.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We kept things pretty simple. My Uncle, my mom’s brother, gave me away. Both of our nieces and nephew were the flower girls and ring bearer. Lee’s father was his Best Man, as his Grandaddy was his father’s Best Man. I think most of the more personal touches of the ceremony were expressed through the decor and music.
What were your ceremony readings? An excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13.
What were your vows like? We both liked the pretty traditional Protestant service with a few minor changes to the language. There was something special about saying vows that are the same promises generations before you have made.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? I loved how intimate it felt. Even with 250 people, the arrangement of the outdoor chapel was such that everyone felt very close. I remember standing up there and looking out at the faces of all the people that love and support us. Also, because we were outside with music played by close friends on guitars, everything felt very sweet, very sincere, and without a lot of pomp.
“I’m an architect, therefore my main focus when looking at venues for the wedding and reception was the buildings. I wanted the venue to be simple and beautiful on its own and to reflect the history of the place. The summer camp we chose has been in operation since 1947, and some of the buildings date back even before that. The hall where we had the reception was in one of these. It was probably one of the reasons we chose this camp over another. With the rustic stonework on the front facade, high ceiling and heavy timber, it was exactly what I envisioned—rustic, historic and unique.”
How would you describe your reception? Youthful, nostalgic…a raging party!
The reception felt really unique and was such a mashup of our personalities. It was in the open air gym where the summer camp has their square dances so there was an inherent feeling of youth. I loved that the building was open to the beautiful landscape and was built with rough-saw heavy timber from the surrounding area. With all the flowers and decor, it felt really whimsical and nostalgic. Also, we encouraged people to bring their children to the wedding and to stay at the summer camp. Therefore, we ended up with over 40 kids there. It was awesome to see all of the kids playing together and dancing. The band was made up of buddies of the groom, but with a slew of musical guests—friends, current band mates and former band mates of the groom—just about anyone who played, including the groom, ended up onstage at some point. It was a wild, rock-n-roll-summer-camp-shindig complete with stage diving.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? I was really inspired by the history of the area where we got married. In the 1930s and 1940s, people would vacation and have religious revivals there. Lee’s brother found some historic photographs from that time period, one of which we used as the envelope liner for our save the date. I loved the idea of our guests spending a weekend with us immersed in the place. It really brought our families together in a special way and created special memories for ourselves and our guests.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Yes! My sister, the matron of honor, went above and beyond! She and her husband built many of the focal pieces for the wedding including the chandelier in the reception, the flower backdrop behind the altar, and the doors to make the entrance to the ceremony space. She also arranged all the flowers and and greenery for the ceremony. Additionally, my niece and mom pulled together the family photos and chalkboard that told the story of my ceremony dress.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? My Grandmother, my mom’s mother, is Slovenian and grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan (The U.P.) in a small town that was largely Slovenian and Finnish emigrants immigrants. Polka music was what they played at all of their dances and still do. My family visits The U.P. every few years over 4th of July for the annual Polka dance in the town hall. So, I grew up polkaing, and that was the first dance I ever went to. And, probably what I compare every party to. It was really fun to do at the wedding and all of my mom’s family joined in. It was also pretty funny to see the confused faces of other guests.
Cake and dessert by Barb’s Cakes.
What was your first dance song? Other special songs? We danced to “Bring it on Home” by Sam Cooke. Lee and his mother danced to the Bob Dylan song, “Times They Are A ‘Changin.” My mom and I polka danced to a traditional Polka song.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? All the dancing. There were some choice songs that Lee and I had a lot of fun dancing to, but watching all the kids on stage rocking out was really great. I think for some of the younger ones, this might have been their first rock show, which makes me proud.
Dawn changed into a Maggie Sottero gown for the reception and pulled her hair back with a vintage, art deco hair comb.
Dress from Diane’s Formal Wear in Jasper, Alabama.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?
You can always think of something you wish was a little different, but my husband always holds me to how I answered that question the day after the wedding. “I think it was perfect. I can’t think of anything I would change, not a thing. . .”