This past weekend, we went to Alabama on what was the quickest weekend in the history of quick Alabama weekends. We woke up at 5am Friday to fly over a period of 10 hours and three connections and found ourselves in Birmingham come dinnertime. While the real reason we were there was for another glorious wedding, we also squeezed in a visit to two of my very favorite people, my cousin Andrew and his wife Kelly. Or rather I should say, we enjoyed some wine and quality time with Kelly and got to see Andrew for a solid 25 minutes at Moe’s over his dinner break during a 30-hour hospital shift, reminding me I’m so happy I never decided to pursue a medical profession.
My parents met us in Birmingham, and SVV and I rode with them to Auburn the next morning, arriving at our hotel with just an hour to spare before it was time to drive further into the boondocks to see Jana and Matt get hitched. I’ve probably known Jana longer than any other friend still in my life at this point. We grew up down the street from each other, and as luck would have it, both call ourselves Bay Area residents at present. We also got married with five months of each other—and both to mid-thirtysomething California boys. Two weeks prior to the wedding, I had taken a little day trip down to Morgan Hill for her bridal shower and was able to meet the family that she was marrying into. And let me tell you, it’s not only a good one, but a very LARGE one, too. Catholic through and through, Matt is one of seven kids, and his mom one of 10. Their family portrait numbered 100+ members! As a gal who has one sister and whose parents each only have one sibling, I’m a bit envious. Simultaneously, I think it must be mighty stressful to remember that many birthdays. But anyway…
After a bit of trouble finding her parents’ sprawling plot of land (aptly named “The Land”) somewhere between Auburn and Lafayette, the four of us arrived at 1:29pm. The wedding was set to start at 1:30. (We’re nothing if not prompt.) We raced through the woods and over a stream or two, parked the car and still had a bit of walking to do before we found the ceremony site. Lucky for us, there were signs marking the way.
It was the most glorious fall day, the kind of afternoon that makes me insanely nostalgic for Southern autumns. The San Francisco weather is desirable in the dead of the winter when it’s sunny and 60 and the rest of the country is under a blanket of snow and cold, but it lacks in the seasons department. If I could have it my way, I’d spend spring and fall in Tennessee, winter in San Francisco and summer in some small beach town, somewhere.
We settled into our seats with just minutes to spare before the SUV containing the bride and her attendants showed up. Leave it to Jana to not do anything traditional. The bridal party—our friend Whitney from home and Jana’s sister-in-law Heather—wore ankle booties and Free People dresses, a pleasant departure from the tulle and taffeta that typically plague a bridesmaid’s existence.
The adorable little flower girls donned fairy wings and headdresses and carried water cans full of flower petals.
Jana herself—who turned 28 just the day before—wore lace-up boots beneath her dress and a dramatic birdcage veil. I nearly cried when I saw her. I’m not kidding when I say she was the prettiest bride I ever did see. Try being in this girl’s shadow much of your life…it ain’t easy!
(Some wedding guests—like Baby Camilla here—were clearly less than impressed with her ensemble. Ha.)
The ceremony was very quick—10 minutes tops (my favorite kind of ceremony)—but incredibly sweet. In the 27 years I’ve known Jana, she’s never been much of an emotional sap, but she sure was a leaky faucet that day! (Sorry, Jana, but I speak the truth.)
Once it was over, we all hopped in our cars and drove back to the main part of “The Land,” where Jana’s dad John had planted an open-air barn.
John is a ridiculously smart and resourceful man—after all, he was the president of the University of Tennessee Space Institute in our hometown for many years. Once he retired, he and Jana’s mom Susan relocated down to Alabama and he took on a myriad of hands-on projects. Or as Susan said, “he went from scientist to redneck farmer in no time flat!” He also built all the tables and benches, the bar and even the saloon doors for the occasion.
I’m not that much of a drinker, but I managed to throw back seven or so Twisted Pears (anything + ginger pretty much = my liquid crack). I may not normally gravitate toward the booze, but who can resist a fun drink menu like this?
After what seemed like ages of drinking and mingling, Jana and Matt finally rounded the corner in the coolest old Rolls Royce—it fully completed the vintage feel of the whole day.
(Jess and I couldn’t help but pose in front of it out of sheer jealousy.)
There were five of us Tullahoma gals—friends who played on every basketball, soccer and softball team together since birth—who made it out to the fete; it was a reunion of sorts as I only see these lovely ladies once in a blue moon.
Some of them—like Sandy and her husband Justin (another T-Town native)—have procreated and produced the cutest of kids ever. Miss Lily actually turned two on the wedding day and nearly outlasted the rest of us in endurance, staying awake in chipper until well after the sun went down.
Instead of a traditional guest book, Jana and Matt had all the guests leave a thumbprint behind. This was a first in all the weddings I’ve attended and something neat they can hang on their wall as a reminder of the day.
There were cupcakes, there was dancing, and there was a massive bonfire at the end of the night. We rallied until almost 10pm—a solid showing on our part, I’d say, given the lack of sleep in the previous 36 hours—then headed back to Auburn to catch some zzzz’s.
We had to race back to Birmingham in time to make it to the airport by 1:30pm Sunday—it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive—but not before meeting up with two of my favorite fellow travel bloggers for breakfast at that fine American institution, IHOP. I’ve followed Akila and Patrick’s culinary journey around the world for well over a year now, but it’s funny how life works: With as much as the three of us travel—and as many exotic places as we’ve all visited—the very spot we would cross paths would be in small town, America. And at an IHOP at that (all of us, self-proclaimed foodies). I kind of love the irony of the situation.
Alabama was good to us. And it was yet another enlightening experience where I saw a part of the country I’ve driven through so many times before—a part I daresay I’d written off as “redneck” more often than not (don’t burn me at the stake…I now realize the error in my ways!)—from behind a different, more grown-up, lens.
If you want to see Jana and Matt’s professional shots—and you should, woo-boy you should—head over to wedding photog Katie Barker’s site to read her recap. Hers are some of the most amazing wedding portraits I’ve ever seen! A true talent. The amateur photos my mom, SVV and I snapped above hardly do this event justice!