Southern Wedding at Swann Lake Stables :: Melanie & Justice

Organic elements and elegant details married beautifully at Justice and Melanie’s early fall wedding at Swann Lake Stables. Their celebration, chock full of traditions, proves that it’s possible to have both a big guest list and an intimate wedding day. This wedding is a must-see for brides who’re partial to rustic and romantic, and we’re particularly smitten with the spectacular natural setting, the lovely jasmine vines in the bride’s hair and around their classic buttercream cake, and cornhole on the lawn. Who’s up for a game?



“Several people told us that our wedding day would fly by, so we should pause to take it all in from time to time. It really does go by so quickly, but we made a conscious effort to savor it and enjoy our day. It’s good to remember that your wedding day is not the time to stress about the unimportant details. Being surrounded by so many family and friends at one time is a blessing.”


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Why did you choose this location for your wedding?  Swann Lake Stables is surrounded by the city but it feels like you are deep in the woods. I loved how natural and peaceful it was. I saw photos of other ceremonies by the river and thought it was beautiful, but when I was able to visit the venue, I completely fell in love. The ceremony location was the reason that we chose our venue.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Did you incorporate something old, new, borrowed and blue?  For my something old, I wore my grandmother’s earrings and my great-grandmother’s gold bracelet, from my father’s side. Tied to my bouquet was a gold pendant that belonged to my other grandmother, which my mom’s father gave to her as a gift – my something borrowed. It’s engraved with a French phrase that means “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.” My dress was my something new and I wore a tiny necklace with a cross of blue flowers, a gift from my mom’s best friend when I was born, as my something blue.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about?  While I was looking for invitations, a family friend told my about Kempis Press. After seeing Jonathan’s studio and his beautiful work, we collaborated on the invitation suite. I designed the suite myself and he printed them. The invitations ended up being one of my favorite details from our wedding. I designed our wedding programs to match our invitations and my mom and sister-in-law helped me assemble all of them a few weeks before the wedding. I also made all the signage – bar menus, guest book table décor, and wooden signs directing guests to the ceremony.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & InkMary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Do you have any budget tips for other brides?  Pick a few things that are really important to you. It’s easy to get caught up in every detail, but it’s not easy to get everything you want without blowing your budget. My priorities were the venue, food and drinks, and paper goods, including our invitations, programs, etc.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & InkMary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


The Ceremony

“The ceremony was the part of our wedding day that I kept picturing in my mind. I imagined exactly what I wanted it to look and feel like. I also knew that the reality of an outdoor ceremony meant that things may not go as planned. But the day of our wedding, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. One of our readings was Song of Soloman 2:10-13, 8:6-7, ‘Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.’ At that moment I heard the river beside us and thought of how perfectly everything had come together.”


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Your ceremony in three words.  Traditional, natural, relaxed.

How did you go about planning your ceremony?  Justice and I both wanted a very traditional religious ceremony, so we didn’t stray from the standard Episcopal service. We selected the readings and music together, and the priest from my parents’ church officiated the ceremony.

What were your ceremony readings?  Song of Soloman 2:10-13, 8:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

What was your ceremony music?  We had a solo violinist, and I loved that the music just seemed to accompany the sound of the river rather than drown it out. Justice and I selected the songs together from traditional favorites.

Prelude – Trumpet Tune, H. Purcell
Processional – Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach
Bridal Processional – Air, The Water Music, G.F. Handel
Recessional – Hornpipe, The Water Music, G.F. Handel


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


How did you select your wedding party?  Our wedding party was all family plus one very close lifelong friend. We loved that the people surrounding us on our wedding day were our biggest supporters. It also meant that the night before our wedding and getting ready the day of our wedding were intimate gatherings. To be honest, the time before our wedding ceremony, just hanging out with our families, was one of my favorite parts of the day.

What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony?  It was an incredible feeling to walk back down the aisle together at the end and head to our reception – the really fun part. Justice and I were nervous about standing in front of so many people at such an intimate moment, so I focused on him and our priest and tried not to think about everyone watching us. When our priest pronounced us husband and wife and we walked back down the aisle, it was such an exciting moment and a relief for both of us.



The Reception

“We wanted the reception to feel relaxed and fun. The stables were the perfect place to create that vibe. The building itself is informal with all natural wood and brick floors, and our décor complemented that feeling with natural greenery arrangements, potted plants, and a neutral color palette. It felt like having a party in someone’s backyard rather than a venue.”


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & InkMary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


What inspired you when you were planning your wedding?  While planning our wedding, we thought about weddings we had been to and what we enjoyed most. And, of course, I followed wedding blogs – including Snippet and Ink – and looked for ideas on Pinterest. The venue inspired the look and feel of the flowers and colors. I wanted to compliment the natural environment, not compete with it. Since the venue was already casual, I didn’t want the reception to feel too informal or rustic, and chose lots of metallic details that were simple and elegant.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink


Did you have a signature cocktail?  We served Moscow Mules and Old Fashioneds as our signature cocktails, along with a selection of local beers. We actually gave monogrammed copper mugs as a gift to our wedding party and immediate family before the wedding so they could use them at the reception.

What type of cake or dessert did you serve?  Our cake was a simple white cake with buttercream frosting. Each layer was ringed with jasmine vine.

What kind of music did you play at your wedding?  Justice and I have very different tastes in music, so we chose a DJ which allowed us to play a wide variety of music. Before our wedding day, we also asked our family and friends for their music recommendations and incorporated those into the playlist.



What was your favorite moment or part of the reception?  Justice loves the Bee Gees, so he requested several songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. He joked with me before the wedding that he was going to memorize John Travolta’s dance to “Staying Alive.” So when the DJ played it at our reception, I told him to get out there and dance. He did, and got everyone else dancing, too! It ended up being one of my favorite moments of the night.

What was your first dance song?  Our first dance song was “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. My father and I danced to “Boats to Build” by Guy Clark, and Justice and his mother danced to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts.

Any special details or moments from your reception?  As we left our reception our guests tossed lavender – it smelled amazing!

If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?  Absolutely not. It really was exactly what we wanted. At the end of the night as we drove away from our reception we both couldn’t believe how perfect it all was.


Mary Margaret Smith | Snippet & Ink



Al Fresco


The South

Vendor Credits

Photography: Mary Margaret Smith / Venue: Swann Lake Stables in Birmingham, Alabama / Event Coordination: Becky’s Brides / Officiant: Father Charles Youngson / Dress: Rafael Cennamo from Finery / Shoes: Gianni Bini / Veil: Sara Gabriel / Bridesmaid Dresses: Amsale  / Suit, Groomsmen Attire, Ties: Banana Republic / Shoes: Allen Edmonds / Tie Clip: J. Crew / Stationery: Kempis Press / Floral Design: Hot House Design Studio / Hair, Makeup: Molly Stilley, Morgan Ashley Salon / Rentals: Event Rentals Unlimited / Violinist: Karen McDowell / Reception Music & Lighting: Amerson Events / Catering: Savoie Catering / Cake, Dessert: Cakes by Audrey


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