The Rolling Hills of Tennessee Provided the Backdrop for This Organic Spring Wedding
Julia Roseman and Doug Norfleet had dozens of chances to run into each other during their time at Vanderbilt University—but it wasn't until just a few weeks before they graduated in 2014 that fate intervened. "We had been in the same major, had dozens of mutual friends, and had even lived in the same dorm building—but never met," says Doug. And though the timing meant they committed to a long-distance relationship almost immediately (Julia moved to India after graduation), they believe it worked out perfectly. "We agreed that we wouldn't have liked each other if we met earlier in our college careers, and it all came together right before the window of opportunity would have closed forever," explains Doug.
Three years later, Doug worked Julia's love of the Christmas season into his proposal by parking his car during a drive-through holiday light display and pulling her out to take a Christmas card photo under a grove of willows. "I got in pose waiting for Doug, and when I turned he had already dropped to one knee and pulled the ring out," says Julia.
Julia and Doug hired The Gifford Collective to help create their dream wedding at Ravenswood Mansion in Brentwood, Tennessee, where, on May 18, 2019, 150 guests gathered for their outdoor ceremony and reception. Their planning team's assistance was invaluable, they say. "During the planning process, we moved to our new city, I transferred offices, Julia got a new job, and her mother received a tough health diagnosis," says Doug. "It was so hectic."
With the help of their planners, the couple focused on a few key areas—"personal vows, incredible photography, incredible food and drinks, and a thoughtful guest list"—and curated their aesthetic, which Julia describes as "modern, floral, intentional, romantic, and Tennessee-inspired," and Doug calls "beautiful, unique, community-focused, bougie as hell (and proud of it), and just all around special." But their biggest priority remained creating a special event for their loved ones. "Overall, our family and friends are the reason we found each other and were able to make it through the challenges of international long distance, family health issues, and career struggles," says Julia. "We knew that we wanted our wedding day to focus on creating the best possible experience for these people that are so special to us."
Julia and Doug chose a lavender-centric color palette designed by The Gifford Collective, incorporating mauve, plum, and blush tones inspired by the season's flowers; they added ivory, black, and green for contrast.
Doug designed Julia's sparkling engagement ring and wedding band alongside her uncle, who runs David Harvey Jewelers—a shop started by her great-grandparents in the early 1900s. "It was so special knowing my family helped create my rings, and that I was able to carry a piece of my grandfather with me on that day," says Julia.
Simple and Chic
Though Julia tried on a variety of wedding dresses at several different shops, she found herself enamored with one material. "There were so many gorgeous dresses that were fluffy, tiered, lacy, or beaded, but my heart kept going back to white crepe," she says. When she put on the "Valeria" by Pronovias, the short sleeves, bateau neckline, and long train spoke to her. "In the store, we combined the dress with a delicate veil that matched the length of the dress' train, and it just stopped us in our tracks. That's when I knew!" she says.
For her wedding day, she chose a Sara Gabriel French lace veil with woven florals around the edge, and wore four-inch heels from Bella Belle—chosen in part because she'd heard about how comfortable they were. "At 6' 6", my husband is an entire foot taller than me," she says. "So I knew I needed taller heels!"
On the big day, she shared a first look with her bridesmaids, mother, and mother-in-law, sparking an emotional moment: "I realized just how lucky I was to have my mom with me on my wedding day, despite the scare of her cancer diagnosis leading up to it," she says.
A Bold Bouquet
The bride's bouquet from Gradient and Hue Floral Design had a "loose, wild, and organic" shape. The color palette of mauve, plum, lavender, and ivory came through in butterfly ranunculus, foxglove, clematis, peonies, hellebore, lilac, and columbine (among other blooms), tied with a pale purple ribbon from Silk and Willow.
Julia asked her bridesmaids to wear matching Jenny Yoo gowns in pale lavender chiffon that complemented the rest of the event's tones. "It looked incredible on everyone and incorporated the ethereal elements of my wedding design," she says. Though Julia had hoped the women could carry bouquets of white astilbe, the flowers weren't available, so Gradient and Hue suggested locally-grown white orlaya, instead.
Men in Black
For himself and his groomsmen, Doug chose black shawl-neck tuxedos in a modern fit from Street Tuxedo, which he paired with classic suspenders and bow ties. "We looked fly as hell," he says. "I didn't feel the need to be different from them in any way. I had a world-class lineup of extraordinary gentlemen up there with me, and they looked the part. The bow ties were not clip-ons, which led to some great photo ops (also, they look better—don't wear clip-ons, gents)."
Father and Daughter
Despite getting stuck in unexpected construction traffic, Julia's father arrived just in time to walk her down the aisle as planned. "We did have a sweet moment as he saw me in my gown for the first time," she says.
As Silver Strings quartet played "We Bought a Zoo" by Jonsi, the duo began their walk toward Doug—Julia's favorite moment of the day. "My gosh, I don't think anything or anyone can prepare you for the moment when you are finally the bride walking down the aisle," she says.
An Emotional Moment
The couple saved their first glimpse of each other for Julia's walk down the aisle—but they both say they would choose to see each other before the ceremony if they had a do-over. "I was a ball of nerves and a first look probably would have been a great idea," says Doug. But he still remembers Julia walking down the aisle as his favorite part of the day: "I'd been nervous and anxious all day waiting for that moment," he says, "and for it to finally arrive was amazing and overwhelming."
From their first trip to Ravenswood Mansion, Julia and Doug had dreamed of a ceremony in the property's wide meadow. They let the scenery of the Tennessee hills serve as the main natural element, accenting the space where they stood with concrete stands holding organic flower arrangements.
Doug and Julia opted for an intimate, non-religious service, asking a friend to write the script and officiate. "She wrote the ceremony with a little input from us, but we never saw a draft," says Doug. "We heard it for the first time with all our guests." Julia and Doug also tweaked traditional vows to make them more personal, adding inside jokes and subtle references to their relationship history. "We thought very intentionally about every word, and we both used the same vows during the ceremony," says Doug. "It was a surreal, full-circle moment when we both agreed that they were done and perfect." After the vows, guests threw petal confetti as the couple walked back down the aisle as newlyweds.
Julia and Doug posed for portraits after their ceremony, and though friends brought drinks and appetizers over to sustain them until the reception, they were both eager to get back to the party. "While I loved that the first time Doug saw me was when I was coming down the aisle, I do think doing a first look is the only thing I would have changed about the day so that we had more time with our family and friends!" says Julia. She stole a minute with her hairstylist, who gave her a reception-ready "party pony," and went barefoot after her heels broke.
At the cocktail hour on the mansion's wide porch, guests ordered signature drinks—including a lavender London mule and a blood orange-rosehip bourbon sour—and ate locally-inspired appetizers like hot chicken bites with pickles and Gulf shrimp ceviche from South Fork Catering Co.
Room with a View
A clear tent allowed sweeping views of the spring foliage and rolling hills, highlighting the local landscape. Inside, rectangular tables lined the edge of the space and smaller round tables occupied the middle; all the tables were dressed in white or taupe linen and paired with sleek almond chairs that gave the tent a modern touch. Hanging lights created a soft glow as the sun set and guests danced under the stars.
Gradient and Hue created a different style centerpiece for each table type: floral runners for the longer tables, low arrangements in stone vessels for the round tables, and pretty bunches in shallow bowls for the smaller stations.
On the head table, a collection of arrangements in pots of different sizes, shapes, and materials ran the entire length, giving the florals a just-picked vibe.
Placed at the Table
Menu cards—which featured the couple's custom crest and listed the evening's dinner options (including Tennessee beef tenderloin, grilled chicken breast with tomatoes, and a side of patatas bravas, one of Doug's favorite foods)—were tucked into folded white napkins. Though tented place cards were meant to stand at each setting, strong winds called for a change of plans: Staff tucked each card into the napkin pocket with the menu and used the butter knife to weigh it down.
Two Special Chairs
Julia and Doug's reception seats were marked with simple greenery garlands.
The unusually warm weather forced Julia and Doug to tweak their reception schedule, pushing up their cake cutting to the beginning of the evening, instead of the end. Baked in Nashville created three tiers in different flavors—lemon cake with lemon curd and vanilla buttercream, red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, and almond cake with almond buttercream—all iced with buttercream and topped with fresh blooms.
A Romantic Serenade
Doug "searched forever" for a first dance song that felt right for him and Julia, finally settling on "Superposition" by Young the Giant. "'Superposition' is a song that uses beautiful poetry and quantum physics references to describe the unexplainable pull that two people in love have with each other," he says. "The song really made us remember where it all started."
He and Julia also stacked the night's playlist with songs that represented inside jokes and favorite memories they have with different groups of friends; the groom got his high school band back together to surprise Julia with a performance of "Two Coins" by Dispatch.
As guests left the reception space to prepare for the couple's exit, Julia and Doug shared a private dance to "Can't Help Falling in Love." "It was by far the most emotional moment of the night for me," says Julia. "I am so grateful to have it to look back on." Doug agrees: "That was honestly the first moment when it really hit us that we were married," he says. "I'm so glad we baked that moment in."
A Grand Exit
After their last dance, Julia and Doug left the mansion as friends and family lined the walkway, holding candles and tossing petal confetti. As they prepared for their honeymoon to the Azores, they both agreed that all the stress and planning was worth it. "Really honing in on who you are as a couple and how you want that represented is quite difficult, but extremely rewarding and important," says Julia. "It won't be perfect," adds Doug, "but it will be perfect."
Photography, Kristin Sweeting
Location, Ravenswood Mansion
Event planning, The Gifford Collective
Catering, South Fork Catering Co.
Flowers, Gradient and Hue Floral Design
Stationery, Darby Cards
Calligraphy, White Ink Calligraphy
Cake, Baked in Nashville
Bride's gown, Pronovias
Hair and makeup, Hannah Farmer Creative
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Groom's tuxedo and menswear, Street Tuxedo
Bar Service, Bar Magnolia
Guest Book, Catch This Moment
Petal Confetti, Everland Favours