Guests Watched from Their Boats as This Couple Tied the Knot on Smith Mountain Lake
In 2019, Anna Caroline Harding (who goes by Caroline) and Sean McCroskey did their annual Labor Day trip to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia with both of their families; however, Caroline had caught wind that she shouldn't get her hopes up for the proposal-friendly weekend. "We all went on a family hike that morning and had planned to have a casual day at the house when we got back," Caroline shares. "Sean started acting strange and asked me to take a walk with him to the edge of the property by the water. It was about 2 p.m. and we were both wearing bathing suits and cover ups. Needless to say, I was absolutely shocked when he popped the question as soon as we got to the edge of the land!" Turns out, he had planned to propose two weeks later in Birmingham, but couldn't wait. "He surprised everyone, not just me!" says Caroline. "Since everyone had flights already booked to Birmingham, we decided to have an engagement-celebration weekend, instead."
The pair's original plan was to host a wedding with roughly 300 guests at the bride's parents' Smith Mountain Lake home. "My cousin and close friend Courtney Goolsby is a wedding and event planner, so she, my mom, and I worked together from the start. We all have very similar tastes so the planning process was fun, easy, and pretty quick!" she shares. But when COVID-19 began to impact the United States, the couple decided that a large event was simply too risky to follow through with. "It was late March or early April when we began telling everyone the new plan," says Caroline. "Because the invitations were already made, we sent them out without the RSVP cards and with a new note, stating our plan to get married with a small group this year and have a large party next year. Sarah of August Blume was kind enough to create, print, and ship this extra card at no cost to us! We then began planning the small ceremony, which was easy given that the large wedding was pretty much all planned."
The couple pivoted their large-scale wedding to a three-day celebration with just 25 guests, preserving the whimsical, romantic look and feel of their original event, but on an intimate scale. "A lot of the details became more personal, focusing on Sean and me more so than on the complicated logistics of the large event," says Caroline. "While we were sad not to have everyone there, we were excited to plan a more relaxed day." The pair intends to have a one-year anniversary celebration and vow renewal on the same weekend in 2021. "We will create another magical night, just on a larger scale," Caroline confirms. "We plan to incorporate beautiful lighting, textured florals, and linens, all with the backdrop of a tall sailcloth tent with a live band playing inside!"
The couple's save-the-date was flat printed on cotton stock with a tonal wax seal featuring a custom illustration of the mountains surrounding Smith Mountain Lake. As for the invitation suite? August Blume letterpressed the set on double-thick cotton paper with a dusty blue painted edge that coordinated with the inner envelope's custom blue velvet liner. "The letterpressed details card, reply card, and elopement announcement layered colors of nudes and blush, along with the illustrated oval wax seal," says Caroline. The suite was tied together with a dusty pink silk ribbon.
Although they didn't stand up for her at the micro-wedding, Caroline's (future) attendants donned matching robes and joined the bride for a Champagne toast prior to getting dressed.
A Quick Spin
The couple enjoyed some time together during a cocktail hour hosted before the main event. "The hour on the dock before the ceremony was so fun!" says Caroline. "Sean and I took a boat ride around the property with my dad as chauffeur, then we sipped wine and enjoyed hors d'oeuvres before I slipped away to change into my wedding dress."
A Unique Bridal Look
Caroline wore her original Needle & Thread London wedding dress for her smaller nuptials. "It's cut from delicate floral-embroidered tulle and embellished with faux pearls, iridescent sequins, and beads," she says. "The skirt is a sweet blush shade, while the cut-out back is framed with ruffles." A blush velvet ribbon was added to the waist, and the neckline was altered to a sweetheart shape.
A Bountiful Bouquet
The bride's organic, unstructured bouquet by Florals by Kimberly included local peonies and jasmine vine accented with organic roses and hand-dyed silk ribbon.
Caroline's diamond engagement ring and Sean's wedding band were both purchased from Consider the Wldflwrs in Tennessee.
Father of the Bride
She spent a special moment with her father before he walked her down the aisle.
The ceremony took place in the yard, positioned against two trees, with the lake and mountains as the backdrop. "Our goal was to take advantage of the beautiful mountain and water background then add special touches to make the day feel even more whimsical, romantic, and dreamy," says the bride. White chairs lined the aisle, which led to an arbor covered in foraged greens and local blooms. "My florist worked hard to consider the impact of her design by prioritizing local products, using alternatives to floral foam, and composting and recycling whenever she could," Caroline says.
A handful of guests watched the service on land.
And on Water
Others watched from a safe distance on the lake.
During the service, Caroline and Sean exchanged vows similar to the ones Caroline's cousin, Courtney, and her husband had used for their own wedding. They ended them with lighthearted lines: Caroline vowed to become a Bengals fan among other things, while Sean committed to always letting his bride have some of his French fries.
Cue the Confetti
After walking back up the aisle, Sean dipped his new wife for a kiss as confetti was tossed around them.
A Picturesque Guest Book
Loved ones in attendance signed their custom guest book from Artifact Uprising, which was filled with photos of the duo.
All in the Family
Since so many relatives could not attend their nuptials, the pair filled a table with their photographs to keep them close. "We used an antique table draped with my grammy's lace tablecloth where we displayed wedding photos of our parents and grandparents," says Caroline.
An Exquisite Reception
For the lakeside reception, the couple chose a beautiful palette of pastels with pops of pink to mimic the sunset—as well as the pink accents of the bride's gown. "We wanted to keep the seated dinner casual, but yet elevated to reflect our personal aesthetic," says Caroline. "We selected a textured linen in cloud, and set the table with scalloped white dinner plates, blush accent salad plates, gold flatware, and clear glasses."
Custom menus in a pale shade of blue topped each plate. "Our lighting mainly came from the gorgeous glow of the setting sun, followed by candles and lights strung on the dock," Caroline adds.
Low floral centerpieces in gold compote vessels contained flowers in pink, purple, green, and white.
Made With Love
Since there was no need for a large cake, the mother of the bride baked a homemade spice confection for the small group. "My mom froze the layers ahead of time, then on the wedding day a very artistic cousin of mine iced the cake and watercolor painted my favorite flower, the peony, onto it," shares Caroline. "It looked and tasted professionally done!"
Can I Have This Dance?
The couple's first dance song—"Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton—was born out of an epic memory. "When we first started dating, we went to a legendary music venue outside of Birmingham, Alabama, called Gip's Place. It is a blues club and juke joint run out of Henry 'Gip' Gipson's backyard in Bessemer, which is famous for its character and authentic nature," recalls Caroline. "When we were there, Gip himself—he was about 96 years old at the time—got on stage and performed 'Tennessee Whiskey' with the band. Pretty much everyone else there was seated to watch, but Sean and I started dancing at the front and felt like we were the only ones in the whole place! We got to eat some moonshine-soaked cherries and meet Gip after that experience, which was awesome."
Photography, Natalie Schram Photography
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Courtney Goolsby
Videography, The Family Films
Flowers, Florals by Kimberly
Invitations and Stationery, August Blume
Officiant, Dave Lonsberry
Bride's Gown, Needle & Thread London
Shoes, Sam Edelman
Hair and Makeup, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Styling
Groom's Attire, Bonobos
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Consider the Wldflwrs
Guest Book, Artifact Uprising
Catering, Center Stage Catering
Cake, Lindsey Isbell Studio
Rentals, Aztec Rentals; CE Rentals
Transportation, Limo Moneta
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