An Elegant-Meets-Rustic Farm Wedding in North Carolina

Stephanie and Mike

Heather Payne

In retrospect, it seems almost destined that their paths would eventually intersect. Stephanie Hall and Michael Noël grew up in North Carolina and then headed west looking for adventure. After traveling, exploring, and sowing their oats, they returned to their home state. They finally met in 2012 when Michael, founding partner at an investment firm specializing in start-ups, visited Stephanie's flower and animal farm at the invitation of her sister. "She works at Habitat for Humanity, and they were in a meeting together. She just knew he was the man for me," says Stephanie. "He's funny and kind, and his sister is a farmer, too!" Sure enough, the two nature lovers were a match made in hog (chicken, cow, sheep ... ) heaven. Seven months later, Michael proposed.The obvious organic choice for the duo's I do's was the spot where they met: Sassafras Fork Farm, which Stephanie runs with her parents. "I was never the girl who held a particular vision for the perfect wedding, but I knew ours had to be something soulful, nurturing, and in sync with this place and time," Stephanie says. Location set, the couple began planning.

Everything for their wedding would be hand-grown, handpicked, or hand-built, starting with the venue itself: a new barn made from reclaimed wood sourced mostly from a local factory and an old home on the property. "The idea of putting up a beautiful building to welcome folks was so appealing, not just for our wedding but for many celebrations to come," says Stephanie.

The carpenter on the job also made long wooden dinner tables and a bar; Stephanie's brother-in-law brewed the beer; and the food was raised and grown by Stephanie, her father, and a few other local farmers. Then there were the flowers—lavish, breathtaking blooms. "I wanted it to feel like the trees and vines had encroached on the barn, like it had been taken back by the land," says Sue Prutting, their floral designer. Prutting enlisted five florist friends from around the country (she called them the Flower Brigade), plus nine local growers, to assist with the setup.

On October 11, 2014, loved ones (320 of them!) filled the barn in the late afternoon to witness the couple's nondenominational vows. A cocktail hour followed, including hors d'oeuvres of local cheeses, deviled farm eggs with roasted red peppers, fritto misto, crispy pork belly, lamb meatballs, and peach-glazed North Carolina shrimp, while a three-piece local band played traditional bluegrass music. The sun broke through in time to allow guests to wander outdoors, where they were joined by a few roaming chickens.

Next up, a family-style farm-to-fork dinner, featuring platters piled high with braised chicken and bourbon brisket (from animals raised and harvested by Stephanie's father), fritters, and more. Later, the twosome two-stepped to Jack Johnson's "I Got You," starting a dance party that lasted until midnight. "A handful of close friends stayed into the early hours, and we hung out around the fire pit," Stephanie recalls. "We ate leftovers, finished off dessert, sang, and just enjoyed basking in the warmth of the fire." The night was so wonderful, in fact, that by the time they went to bed, it was almost time to get up and feed the animals again.


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DIY with Dad

Heather Payne

Stephanie and her father on the day before the wedding, with her dog, Mason, in tow. Farm-grown flowers were harvested throughout the week.

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On the Farm

Heather Payne

Stephanie's parents tended to the flock.

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The Bridal Bouquet

fall wedding bouquet
Heather Payne

"My bouquet was emanating the most fresh and luscious fragrances," says Stephanie, "dahlias, tuberoses, scented geranium, lilies … I didn't want to let it go after photos were taken and dinner was beginning." Some of the flowers were harvested from Stephanie's own farm. Stephanie loves the smell of lilies, so most of the bouquets had at least one yellow trumpet stem in the mix.

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Built to Last

The Cedar Room
Heather Payne

The barn, built by a local carpenter, was outfitted with foliage- and flower-filled urns for the event.

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One Sweet Ride

Heather Payne

The bride's ride was Michael's father's vintage 1951 Chevy pickup. "We had trouble starting it, which made us a little late to the ceremony!" she says.

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Local Guests

Heather Payne

Even the livestock wanted in on the celebration.

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A Welcoming Arrangement

Heather Payne

An urn bursting with autumn-toned blooms greeted guests at the entrance to the barn, which had been built from reclaimed wood for the event.

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Flowers for Days

Heather Payne

Other arrangements included many varieties of dahlias, grasses, blackberry lily seedpods, celosia, tuberoses, and lisianthus, as well as spray- and garden-rose varieties.

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A Heavenly Stairway

Heather Payne

The staircase was "overgrown" with enormous garlands of oak and maple branches, embellished with hanging smilax, Solomon's seal, tuberose, dahlias, and garden roses.

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The Wedding Party

Heather Payne

The wedding party—a mix of family and friends—gathered by the barn for photos after the ceremony. The bride wore a gown by Bhldn, and the groom was in a suit by Samuelsohn Made to Measure.

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A Flower Girl Twirl

Heather Payne

A flower girl, goddaughter of the groom, wore a Brooks Brothers dress and a vibrant floral crown. There were four flower children in total.

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Heather Payne

Rosé Champagne was served during cocktail hour.

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Say Cheese

Heather Payne

Cheeses, from local creamery Boxcarr Handmade Cheese at Boxcarr Farms, included Cottonseed, Rosie's Robiola, Lissome, and Campo.

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The Chicken Dance

Heather Payne

Party crashers pecked at crumbs during the outdoor cocktail hour.

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A Reception to Remember

head table
Heather Payne

The head table was framed by a garland, made fuller on one side so it would appear to be growing up the wall. The base included elaeagnus, ornamental pear branches, and smilax vine—foliage chosen because it holds up well out of water for hours and would remain fresh throughout the evening. Floral accents of 'Café au Lait' dahlias and garden roses dotted the vines. Vintage brass candleholders with natural golden beeswax candles provided a warm glow.

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The Place Settings

Heather Payne

The place settings were vintage plates that Stephanie had collected over many years. "I've always loved antique-store finds," she says.

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Edible Arrangements

Heather Payne

Some of the farm-fresh arrangements in terra-cotta urns included surprising elements, like the home-grown carrots and baby golden beets shown here.

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Great Music

Jaclyn Morgan Photography

The couple's friend Leon (with his wife, Bri, who was also a bridesmaid) played for the first half hour of the reception, including the first dance ("I Got You" by Jack Johnson) and the father-daughter dance ("Stand By Me" by Ben E. King).

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A Naked Cake

Heather Payne

A lemon cake—Stephanie's favorite flavor—with buttercream was decorated with spray roses. Garden roses, dahlias, and vines graced the table.

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Sweets from Friends

Jaclyn Morgan Photography

In addition to their lemon-and-buttercream wedding cake, dessert included many personalized potluck offerings from friends—many of whom were members of the couple's supper-club group.

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Drink Up

Jaclyn Morgan Photography

Coffee in mix-and-match vintage cups and saucers accompanied a potluck dessert table.

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Good Times

Jaclyn Morgan Photography

The newlyweds listened to toasts as evening settled in.

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Heather Payne

Location, Sassafras Fork Farm
Event coordination, Grace Beason of Grace Leisure Events
Catering, Boxcarr Farms
Event design and flowers, Sue Prutting of White Magnolia Designs
Flowers, Floret
Photography, Heather Payne; Jaclyn Morgan Photography
Stationery, Union Press & Paper; Stamplifier
Reception music, Yarn
Rentals, Remember When Antiques; Classic
Videography, Inkspot Crow Films
Lighting, Get Lit Special Event Lighting
Bride's dress, Bhldn
Bride's hair, Soapbox Salon
Bride's makeup, The Makeup Team
Flower-girl dresses, Brooks Brothers;
Ring bearer's attire, Lito Children's Wear
Groom's suit, Samuelsohn Made to Measure
Groom's shoes, L.L.Bean
Groom's shirt, Robert Talbott
Groom's tie, Robert Jensen
Transportation, Greenway Transit Services LLC
Sound and stage lighting, John Koelle of North State Sound
Barn construction and design, Rusty Roof & Nail
Engagement ring, Todd Reed
Wedding rings, William Travis Jewelry

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