Lucky is the groom who has a bride with simple requests. The family farm’s barn for the venue. Mismatched thrift store china for dishes. Steak at the reception. Kent Firestone is that fortunate man who met Sarah Grace Kenley in a Virginia Tech parking lot. They dated for five years, and he grasped the barn and farm angle of Sarah Grace’s life early in the relationship. Kent proposed just before Christmas of 2017 in front of the Kenley’s glorious red barn.
“The planning process began in January when my mom [Sarah Kenley] and I went to visit long-time family friend Sheila [Albert] Easter. “She grew up in McCoy and now lives in Suffolk,” Sarah Grace relates. “I bought my wedding dress there, and we hit several thrift shops to begin collecting china. My mom went to auctions and thrift stores and had most of the china, glassware and silverware by March.” That was convenient timing, as they worked on renovating a house for the new couple next door to the farm from April to August, with help from neighbor and friend, Tina McCoy. These are some serious multi-taskers.
While the home renovation and planning the wedding details continued, Sarah the mom tended flower beds where she grew all the zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers that were used. Neighbor and friend Jessica Breeden made the bouquets, boutonnières and floral table arrangements. Sheila handcrafted a stunning, unique bridal bouquet. “There were two mini-framed picture charms attached with cream color silk ribbons – one of her late grandfather and the other of her favorite Hereford heifer named Baby, also grazing now in greener pastures,” Sheila explains. “I incorporated a charm of braided hair from Baby into the bouquet. The center flower was a cream dahlia about a foot in diameter, and I was able to choose the fresh flowers the day before the wedding.”
Sarah Grace’s father, Claude Kenley, grew all the pumpkins in orange, white, pale pink and green, which were harvested three days in advance. Kent designed and built the ceremony arbor. “The ceremony was held in our pasture field with Pastor Gary McCoy and Steve Sifford officiating,” Sarah Grace says. “Tim Dudley from Hurt, Va., performed two songs. Wedding guests sat on wood benches also made by Kent. It rained lightly, and we considered it tears of joy from heaven and did not let any raindrops dampen our happiness.”
They were prepared with some umbrellas on hand, but in retrospect, Sarah Grace wishes they had purchased clear umbrellas for the wedding party. Having grown up on a cattle farm, it’s not surprising that the bride chose to brand a trunk to use at home instead of lighting a unity candle. Kent grew up in Florida where he played polo until he attended Virginia Tech. He graduated with a degree in animal science and has completed the firefighter academy associated with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue where he is employed. Sarah Grace has worked for a decade at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and is in school for her veterinary technician license.
The reception, catered by Hethwood Market, was held under a tent beside the barn with the food buffet inside the barn. Both the wedding and groom cakes were purchased at Walmart’s bakery. “Earl Brown was the DJ, and Tiffany [Albert] Brown served brilliantly as our photographer,” Sarah Grace adds. “I think all weddings go smoothly with an excellent director, and Kathy Johnston, a neighbor and friend, directed our wedding . She was fabulous. The whole day would not have gone so smoothly without ALL the help we had from friends and family, too many names to list.”
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Tiffany Albert Brown