Chris and Shana’s Farmington Country Club wedding is a celebration after my own heart: utterly timeless and elegant, full of lovely details and meaningful moments. From the bride’s stunning lace gown to the floral wreaths adorning the church doors, from the sweet tea cocktails to the vintage cake topper (from the groom’s parents’ wedding!), this wedding is full of inspiration for anyone who wants a classic look that will be just as beautiful thirty years from now as it does today.
“We were just so lucky, it was an absolutely gorgeous day,” says Shana. “We didn’t know what to expect in March in Virginia, but it couldn’t have been better: sunny and 72 degrees, with a beautiful blue sky! What’s more, the next day they got eight inches of snow! (On a side note: thank goodness we were able to switch our flight out so that we didn’t miss the first day of our honeymoon! My mom has pictures of me the morning of the wedding, with curlers in my hair, on the phone with Delta trying to get things settled!)”
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? I wore my great-grandmother’s earrings for something old, my dress for something new, my Matron of Honor stitched a beautiful blue monogram into my dress for something blue, and her mother in law, who collects vintage handkerchiefs, lent one to me made of Irish lace for something borrowed.
“We had a Presbyterian ceremony and largely followed the guidance of our minister. Although it was important for us to maintain tradition, we also wanted the ceremony to be personal. Our choice of readings and Rev. Cunningham’s homily allowed the ceremony to reflect our relationship and what we hoped for in our marriage.”
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? It was important for us to be married in a traditional ceremony, and St. Paul’s is such a beautiful church, right across from the Rotunda on the edge of UVA’s campus, so it was really the perfect place for us.
Your ceremony in three words. Traditional, meaningful, and joyous.
Who officiated your ceremony? We had a bit of a difficult time finding an officiant! We found the church rather quickly, but unfortunately, their rector was going to be on sabbatical and would not be available to perform the ceremony. We were very lucky to find Rev. John Cunningham, whom we felt truly understood us from the moment we met him. Although he had been ordained for quite some time, Rev. Cunningham was then in the process of defending his PhD dissertation in theology at UVA. This meant that he was able to explain the historical and theological underpinnings of each aspect of our ceremony, which was so meaningful for us.
What was your ceremony music? Our prelude was Rigaudon by Campra and the processional was Love Divine All Loves Excelling, a hymn which I have always loved. The organist was outstanding, and he played the most beautiful rendition as I walked down the aisle. We chose the Wedding March by Mendelsson for our recessional, and my niece and nephew were able to ring the church bells as we made our way down the front steps!
What were your ceremony readings? Chris’s aunt gave a reading from Ruth (1:16-17): And Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you. For where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
And his uncle gave a reading from John (15:9-12): Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
We also wanted to incorporate a non-biblical reading, but had a difficult time finding something that rang true for us. We had been together for close to nine years by the time we got married, and so many poems or statements about love did not adequately capture the meaning of marriage for us. Then I came across this passage from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which was perfect:
Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairytale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was nor ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.
What were your vows like? We chose traditional vows. It was very meaningful for us to speak the same words to each other as so many brides and grooms who had come before us.
I, Christopher, take you Shana
to be my wedded wife
and I do promise and covenant
before God and these witnesses
to be your loving and faithful husband
in sickness and in health,
in plenty and in want,
in joy and in sorrow,
as long as we both shall live.
What was your favorite part of the ceremony? I normally cry at the drop of a hat, and so I thought I would never make it down the aisle, let alone through the entire ceremony, without tears. But the moment they opened the doors and I saw Chris standing at the altar, I don’t really remember anyone or anything else. The rest of the sanctuary could have been empty. My favorite thing was seeing his face, and feeling so purely happy.
“It was important to both of us to wait until the ceremony to see each other that day, and it really did make for a wonderful moment,” says the bride, “but once we were married, we made sure to set aside some time to spend just the two of us, and I am so glad we did. Those were some of my favorite and most vivid memories of the day: sitting in the back of the car (a beautiful 1949 navy blue Cadillac), after the ceremony before we pulled away, as Chris slipped my engagement ring back on my finger, which rested alongside my wedding band of the first time, while listening to the church bells ring out.”
“Farmington Country Club is one of the most beautiful places in Charlottesville. The main building was once a plantation house designed by Thomas Jefferson, and so it looks much like the Rotunda at UVA, and Monticello, Jefferson’s home. It was the perfect place for our reception.”
How would you describe your reception? Classic, beautiful, and fun!
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Charlottesville has played such an important part in our relationship (we met as undergrads at UVA, and it’s where Chris proposed), and with nearly every guest coming in from out of town, we wanted the feel of our wedding to be in keeping with this wonderful part of Virginia. We kept things classic and simple, so that we wouldn’t look back on our pictures in 20 or 50 years and say “What were we thinking?!” I knew I wanted white flowers and lots of greenery, and neutral colors to reflect the season. Farmington is so beautiful and picturesque that it really didn’t need any embellishment, and that made it so easy for us.
It was also important to us that we kept the wedding small, so that we really knew and loved everyone who was there with us that day. We didn’t have a large bridal party either, only a Best Man (Chris’s father) and Matron of Honor (my best friend—who had given birth just six weeks earlier! she was absolutely amazing), and that may have been one of the best decisions we made throughout the planning process.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We served sweet tea cocktails with fresh mint: it gave a nice Southern touch to the cocktail hour.
What was your wedding menu? Passed hors d’oeuvres included Farmington’s ham biscuits (a Virginia classic), caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets, and the most delicious lamb chops. We served a plated dinner with braised short ribs or chicken piccata, truffle risotto, and asparagus. True comfort food!
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The Winn Brothers Band was incredible, they are all such talented musicians, and they made the reception so much fun! We had an amazing time dancing with all our guests, and those are probably some of our favorite memories. It was a wonderful feeling, having our closest family and friends from all over the country together in one place to celebrate with us. The truly standout moment of the night, however, may have been my father’s toast. Anyone who knows him knows his larger-than-life personality and sense of humor, so Chris and I were expecting something big. But a few days before the wedding, he called and ran through his speech with me, and it was surprisingly staid (not at all like him). We finally convinced him to give it everything he had, and boy oh boy was it a good one… definitely something to remember!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? I would have to say that some of the best advice I received as a bride was actually from my husband! I have a true “planner” personality, and so starting out I thought there was absolutely no need to hire a wedding planner—I knew what I wanted, and I didn’t need to pay someone else to help with what I could do on my own! But being a law student while planning a wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia from Austin, Texas, left me quickly feeling overwhelmed. It was really Chris who convinced me to hire a planner, and that was one of the best decisions we made. Lauren at A. Dominick was always available if I had questions or needed a second opinion, but she really let me retain control, and only took a more active role eight weeks before the wedding, which worked so well and really allowed us to be present and enjoy the day.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? We were truly blessed to work with so many amazing people, and that would be a very important piece of advice that we would give to other couples: choose vendors you trust and actually enjoy spending time with! These are people who will be there with you through every step of the day, and for months in advance during the planning process. Everyone knows that planning a wedding can be stressful, but always remember what’s important to both of you. Ask yourself what will matter most to you at the end of the day, and what will you remember for years to come? All the rest simply doesn’t matter, so there’s no use spending time worrying about it.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We had a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, which is our absolute favorite. And we were so fortunate that Chris’s parents also lent us the beautiful cake topper from their own wedding 36 years before! We also had a fire pit going outside during the reception, with s’mores and hot chocolate, which was a lot of fun.
What was your first dance song? Our first dance was to “Love” by Nat King Cole, a favorite of ours and the song that was playing when Chris proposed. My father and I danced to “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra, and Chris and his mother danced to “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan.
“Everyone tells you your wedding day will be a blur, and in fact, we don’t remember much about what was happening around us, but at the end of the night we looked at each other and said, ‘We sure had a great time, hopefully everyone else did!’ We were very lucky that the staff at Farmington had left us a basket in our room with a few extra slices of wedding cake, and had brought up our guestbook, with pictures from the photo booth, and so we sat together drinking champagne and flipping through the photos and little notes that everyone had left us—it was truly the perfect way to end the most wonderful day!”