Kara and Joe, students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, absolutely love being outside. “Much of our six years dating was spent hiking, biking and enjoying the outdoors,” says Kara.
One cold, November evening, five days before her 24th birthday, Joe picked Kara up from work and convinced her that he wanted to stop and grab an early birthday present. And she had to wear a blindfold.
“When he finally told me I could take it off, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was standing at the top of a huge hill surrounded by sparkling Christmas trees in all directions. Somehow, Joe convinced the owner of Spruce Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Newport to let him decorate dozens of trees. As I stood there, surprised and shivering, Joe bent down on one knee with a ring in his hand. When I realized what was happening, I shouted, ‘of course!’ ”
For this nature-loving couple, Hahn Horticulture Garden on campus held a very special meaning. Not only were they attracted to the lush, tranquil setting, but it was also the first place they both said “I love you” to each other. The couple made sure to choose a non-football weekend, and they decided to keep the nature theme going, opting for local and natural vendors.
In lieu of hiring a wedding coordinator, Joe and Kara decided to work together on all the wedding plans. “We saw it as a chance to make the wedding truly unique, giving us the freedom to include personal touches,” she states. Wildflowers and a honeysuckle arch over the altar were provided by Stonecrop Farm in Newport. Our Daily Bread Bakery crafted their three-tier, pumpkin-spiced, wedding cake, and Mikie’s 7th also in Newport catered the reception with locally-sourced, farm fresh fare.
Kara and Joe wanted to keep the wedding intimate with only 60 guests, though the Hahn Horticulture Garden can accommodate up to 150. Many of the couple’s friends played active roles in their big day. “Two of our good friends provided the music for the ceremony: George Hodges and local singer/guitarist, Jeff Owens, also known as Sweet Velvet,” says Joe.
“Our rehearsal dinner was at The Palisades restaurant in Eggleston, and we cannot say enough about how delighted we and our guests were with the entire dinner,” exclaims Kara. “The upstairs private dining room was beautifully decorated with lights and fall accents.”
Coordinating every last detail certainly tested the couple’s patience, but Kara admits it helped them become a better decision-making team. “I did not view the wedding as my day, but as our day — the combined result of both of our visions.” For wedding favors, they gave small jars of Ann’s Apple Butter, locally-sourced from Troutville. “Our cake topper was a pair of bride and groom Arensbak trolls that came from ‘5 Arts Studio’ located in the mountains of East Tennessee.”
Of course, the Newmans learned some lessons along the way. “Try to make sure your caterer does not have another event that day, and get enough sleep the night before!” Kara and Joe each only slept about four hours as a result of staying late at the rehearsal dinner and trying to complete last minute tasks at the last minute. “Oh, and practice bustling the dress,” Kara recalls. After the ceremony, five people ended up taking half an hour to bustle her wedding gown before the reception.
All in all, for this collaborative outdoorsy pair, Mother Nature ended up cooperating to create a beautiful, autumn wedding in a very special setting.
Emily Kathleen Alberts is a freelance writer and lover of local lore who, in the words of her high school English teacher, loves to “ask the next question.”
Story by Emily Kathleen Alberts
Photos by Natalie Gibbs Photography