Photography by Heather Payne.
When the bride is a flower farmer and co-founder of North Carolina’s Sassafras Fork Farm, you had better believe the flowers for her own wedding day were going to be seriously spectacular. Everything about this gorgeous wedding was a labor of love – from a literal barn-raising (they built their ceremony and reception space right there on the property!) to putting together those flowers with the help of fellow flower growers, as well as Stephanie’s dad (and be sure to read on for that sweet story!) If you weren’t already dying to see more of this wedding, let me just leave you with the best first meeting story I think I’ve ever heard, from Stephanie’s husband Michael: “I had never met anyone like her. When she asked me, ‘wanna see my yurt?’, I was done. I knew I not only wanted to see it, but wanted to live in it with her!”
Stephanie said “I loved how my dad, who usually keeps to himself and avoids a lot of social activity played such an active part in the wedding process – in his own way of course. The flower team relied on him for all the foliage material. He spent days in the woods with his tractor and trailer ‘pruning’ trees for the floral team to use, dogwoods, maples, elm, eleagnus, wild blueberry bushes, oaks… These fall-colored branches filled urns that embraced the barn walls with a forest-like feel. This time spent foraging in the woods has led him to understand and help me with my growing floral business throughout the year. He always asks me now before any event or bouquet-making session, ‘you need me to go forage for you?’
Flowers are obviously very important to me and my main focus here at Sassafras Fork (along with helping my dad raise animals for meat and eggs). Prior to the wedding I attended an on-farm flower workshop with my mentors Erin of Floret and Sue of White Magnolia Designs, and once they found out I was planning on doing my own flowers for my wedding, they asked if they could do my flowers, remarking how difficult it is for a bride to design her own flowers! Talk about a dream come true – I actually thought they were joking. Here were two of the industry’s main leading ladies, offering to come to my farm and design my wedding flowers?! What big hearts these women have, and also what big dreams and visions. ”
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? The farm was a no-brainer, it is where we live, where we met, where we got engaged and where we are building our lives together. As we began planning and researching tents, we quickly decided rather than renting a tent for a night (though we still had to rent a couple extra tents as our guest list increased!), we might as well invest in our farm and its future. We always love sharing our farm with friends and family. The idea of a permanent space to welcome folks to this good piece of life and land was appealing for our wedding and hopefully future events. We immediately began envisaging and planning for our event barn, a space designed simply enough for farm use, but elegantly enough for a one-of-a-kind authentic farm wedding. The barn was constructed by a local carpenter and salvage connoisseur, Philip Paulsen of Rusty Roof & Nail who artistically pieced together a barn that looks like it’s been here forever.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Our ceremony was very much a reflection of Mike and I non-denominational, centered around love and respect for each other, our families, our community and nature.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? We brought Mike’s dad’s old ’51 Chevy to the farm. A family friend came to pick me up in it before the ceremony along with my Mom and Dad and then couldn’t get it started, making us a little late to the ceremony!
What was your ceremony music? Nick Cave’s Into My Arms. A close friend of Stephanie’s, Ana Rasmussen, sang and played the guitar.
What was your ceremony reading? The Prophet, On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Hands down my favorite moment of the day was when I first stepped into our barn, one hand through my dad’s arm and the other in my mom’s, and felt, heart and soul the radiance of this vision come to life. I honestly never was the girl who held a particular vision for the “perfect” wedding, but knew ours had to be something soulful, something nurturing, something purely of the heart and something so in sync with this space and this time. I walked down the aisle with the two most important people in my life by my side, feeling embraced by all the friends and family snugly standing, almost embracing the aisle we walked down, and peering at my future husband waiting to take my hands and begin our shared life together here at Sassafras Fork.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Decide on what really matters to the two of you, as your wedding is a reflection of who you are together. Focus on bringing those things to perfection for it is those qualities that matters in the long run and comprise the essence of your wedding and the majority of your memories will be built off these pillars… otherwise the entire event can be millions of details that eventually do not matter. The planning experience was the first big project we tackled together as a couple. We learned so much about ourselves and eachother and how we work together and how important it is to focus on individual strengths that can then be brought together.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Simple, authentic farm elegance. ‘Local’ being the main foundation of our wedding. We were married in October so if any decision was made about colors, they were pulled from the natural palette in North Carolina at that time of year – deep yellows, burgundy, browns and ivory.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? I wanted to craft many more of the wedding’s details myself, but quickly realized that running a farm, building a barn, constructing our home, and planning a wedding all in the same year were all quite big feats, so some of the finer details we skipped over. I guess some of my words of wisdoms for planning your own wedding would be to pick the three things that matter the most to you, focus on those making them the best and most memorable parts of the night while letting some other things go” Our three big themes were: the space (barn), food and flowers! The flowers were done by our amazing ‘flower brigade’, a team of rock star farmer-florists across the country. They were here at the farm beginning the Tuesday before our wedding, basically working around the clock to transform our barn…it was dripping with flowers and foliage!
How would you describe your reception? Mixed vintage plates, mixed water glasses and etched glasses with our farm’s logo (which guests could take home with them), terracotta urns of draped and piled with fresh vegetables (carrots, beets, okra, garlic, gourds) for decoration, though many guests loaded the shuttles home with bunches of beets and carrots in hand! All tables were also adorned with amazing floral arrangements filled with our farm’s and other local floral ingredients, natural yellow beeswax candles (tapers, votives), linen runners, water carafes, sparking water, silverware, and natural color flour sack napkins.
What was your wedding menu? A family-style dinner, with no assigned seating was so important to us. Many folks tried to dissuade us considering the amount of guests attending, but a family style dinner was entrenched in our upbringing, encouraging conversation around food, passing of plates, talking from one end of the table to the other…we wanted to experience this beloved style of sharing food with all 300+ of our guests.
Food was one of the main pillars of our wedding, and in our lives, so it was very, very important to serve a high quality, local and sustainable farm to fork meal. Our caterers are rock stars in the local food movement in our community, Boxcarr Farms. Dani and Austin brought their food truck to the farm to prepare/finish everything before serving platters of amazingness to all thirty-two-ish tables.
Stephanie said “all the plates and glasses used at our wedding were collected over several years. I have always loved antique store finds and find delight in collecting vintage tableware.”
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Lemon with buttercream icing from Daisy Cakes. Lemon is my favorite flavor of any cake!
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? We finished the night up at midnight. Mike’s Belgium family wanted it to continue another eight hours, as is typical in Belgium, but once the music stopped and the last shuttle left to return back into town only a small handful of close friends remained at the barn. We hung out around the fire pit, eating left-overs, finshing off the deserts, playing some music, singing, lighting paper lanterns that we didn’t have time to set off with everyone there, just enjoying and basking in the warmth of the fire in the early, early morning after quite an evening!