Though they had lived in bustling Fairfax, Va., and near lively Charleston, S.C., Alyson Thompson and Doug MacAlpine chose a decidedly rural locale for their June wedding: Alyson’s family farm in Floyd.
“From the old family cemetery and rolling hills and pastures to the cave where the bear hibernates, the farm is very meaningful to our family, and we enjoy it immensely,” says Alyson. The idyllic location was enhanced by its history, the farm having been in Alyson’s family for more than 200 years. Naturally, the wedding motif was country. “The scenery around the farm is a beautiful back drop. Things like the old hay wagon and tire swing just added to the charm.”
The two teachers met while working at the same elementary school and started dating after spring break in 2013. “Doug surprised me and proposed January 4 at the pineapple fountain in downtown Charleston with his grandmother’s beautiful ring,” Alyson remembers.
Alyson incorporated still more history into the wedding plans by using the palmetto rose, made with frons from South Carolina’s official state tree, the palmetto tree. Tradition holds that southern ladies would give their true loves palmetto roses to keep them safe from harm as they rode into the Civil War. These roses still symbolize everlasting love, according to Alyson.
While the bride received recommendations from local friends and family for some professional services, many of the wedding details were homespun. An aunt grew most of the flowers. Alyson, her mom and her sister cut last-minute, fill-in flowers at a pick-your-own farm near Riner. The bride and bridesmaids made bouquets for the ceremony. The wedding party and family created table arrangements using Alyson’s grandmother’s crystal glasses and vases. Guest bags for the Floyd hotels were assembled and contained information about things to do in the area, directions and a schedule of events. The guest book, a surprise from Alyson’s family, doubled as a photo album that covered the time from when Doug and Alyson met to them trying on their wedding finery.
The participation of family and friends was integral in carrying off the day in a successful and budget-friendly way, plus it made the event more significant. Especially poignant, recalls Alyson, was that “my aunt, who was battling breast cancer, wanted to help and made a beautiful box for people to put cards in at the reception. She recently passed away, and we saved the box for future [family] weddings.”
An outdoor wedding is always a risky proposition, and the MacAlpines’ was no exception. The weatherman predicted rain all week, so they rented a tent and had a back-up plan for heavy rain. Sure enough, the sky was dark as ushers showed guests to their seats, and it started to sprinkle. Then, in a wonderful surprise, the sun came out during the ceremony, and it was beautiful the rest of the day.
While the weather cooperated, a few things did go awry. Alyson tripped on the lace runner during the processional. “Doug was so nervous he repeated almost everything the minister said, including ‘Repeat after me.’” And Alyson had a hard time getting Doug’s ring on his finger so she had to twist it on. Small glitches in the great scheme of things.
Another notable success was a pre-wedding bridal tea. It allowed ladies from disparate places to get to know one another, which made the reception more relaxed. While the bridal tea was happening, the men had fun tubing down the Little River.
Was Alyson stressed about only having six months to plan the wedding? Surprisingly, no. Her retired mother served as full-time wedding planner. Not having to reserve a venue also took off pressure. Alyson says the key was letting everyone know as soon as the date was set. “Mom’s friend who helps with weddings said it best: ‘The longer you have to plan, the more things you add, and the more complicated a wedding can get.’”
Alyson’s advice for future brides is simple. Let friends and family help; they will enjoy being included. Remember to eat something amidst the hubbub. Most importantly, savor the day “because you blink and it’s over!”
Jennifer Poff Cooper is a Christiansburg freelance writer.
Story by Jennifer Cooper
Photos by Always and Forever Photo