It was imperative for Connell Owings to dance the night away at her wedding, and she did just that when she married Fletcher Dunn this past September. A great band was a must have for this Southern girl; she even made flip-flops available for the women so they could remove their heels and dance comfortably.
The couple resides in Washington, D.C., but the memory of their wedding day in Columbia is still fresh in their minds. Making their vows and her cousin Jimmy Adams’s reading of 1 Corinthians were memorable highlights, as was dancing to the band with friends and family at the reception afterward. “The band can really make or break the night. Our band, Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters, did an amazing job engaging and entertaining the crowd. It was a blast!” says Connell.
The couple danced until 11:30 p.m. and then exited the Forest Lake Club, got into the “get-away car,” and drove down a drive flanked by igniting Roman candles.
Fletcher, raised in Greensboro, N.C., and Connell were engaged almost a year earlier in Washington, D.C. before they began making plans for their wedding at Shandon Methodist Church and a reception at Forest Lake Club. The couple met their freshman year at Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Va., and began dating their junior year. Conveniently, they were able to secure jobs in nearby Washington, D.C. after college. Connell is the director of clinical trials in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University, and Fletcher is a senior underwriter at Walker and Dunlop.
“When Fletcher proposed, it was my birthday and the day of our friends’ annual Thanksgiving party, so a lot of friends were in town. It was a great day,” Connell says with a smile. “He had actually had the ring for more than a month, but there were five weekends in a row where we weren’t together and were only seeing each other during the week. He wanted to wait until we could have the whole weekend to celebrate together.” With it then being two weekends before Thanksgiving, the timing really was perfect because they were able to go home and see their families soon afterward.
The couple decided to have the wedding in South Carolina because of Connell’s long-time family ties to Columbia. “I have always loved Forest Lake, and the ballroom is so beautiful. Especially living away from Columbia since going to college, it was nice to have our reception somewhere familiar and where I had grown up.”
Besides finding ideas on websites like Pinterest and remembering details from other weddings, Connell looked to her parents, friends and Washington, D.C. roommates for tips and advice. “They helped tremendously,” she says.
Pat Owings says that since Connell is her only daughter, it was decided that she would assist with planning details instead of relying on a wedding planner. Times when Connell came back to Columbia were extremely busy, she points out. Otherwise, details were ironed out long distance during the nine-month engagement.
“They wanted a relaxed, easy feel to their weekend,” says Pat.
Like many brides, Connell wanted friends and family to share in her special day. “Incorporating special friends and family into the day was important,” she says. “I loved getting to spend extra time with friends from high school and college that I don’t see on a regular basis.”
Guests flew in from all over the country, many of whom had never visited the South. Connell made certain guests arriving from out of town were greeted in their hotel rooms with a Southern hospitality welcome box that included such snacks as roasted pecans from the Golden Kernel Pecan Company in Cameron, S.C., and homemade cheese straws. “We included one of Sue Hodges’ mini caramel cakes from Happy Café and they were a hit!” says Connell. A take-home item in the box was a package of stoneground grits from the Carolina Plantation in Darlington, S.C. and an Owings’ family shrimp and grits recipe was attached.
At the 6:30 p.m. wedding, the wedding party of 12 bridesmaids and the maid of honor were dressed in long French blue dresses. The groomsmen wore white tie, and Connell’s gown was covered in lace. Knowing it would be the only night she could wear her wedding gown, she decided against the growing trend of changing into a different dress for the reception. She did, however, change into a shorter white dress after the reception to continue to visit with out-of-town guests.
Connell and Fletcher did not have a theme for their wedding, but settled on a white, green and neutral color scheme for a classic look. Jimmilib Harrison of Garden Tapestry Events conveyed the color scheme in flowers at the rehearsal dinner, which took place at Stone River, as well as at the ceremony and reception. Connell carried white roses and white hydrangeas. Starry lights were strung under tulle fabric at the entrance of Forest Lake Club, making a grand entrance to the reception.
“Jimmilib was such a valuable resource for us because of the wealth of knowledge she has from many years of doing weddings,” says Pat.
Anne Jameson, an artist and family friend who lives in Saluda, N.C., sketched Shandon Methodist Church for the front of the wedding program. Later, she added watercolor to the sketch for Connell and Fletcher to have as a remembrance. The art was displayed at the reception along with the family bridal photos and a family heirloom porcelain bride and groom.
Food for the reception was decidedly Southern. There was low country boil on a stick, fried green tomato BLT sandwiches, quail, roasted oysters, shrimp and grits and fried okra. Pat says she felt strongly that the okra was too informal for a wedding reception, but the vegetable was a hit with guests. Non-Southern style food included beef tenderloin, pureed cauliflower, and a fall salad with pears and goat cheese. There was also an oyster and beer bar on a side porch.
Because barbecue is distinctly different in North and South Carolina, the couple decided that it would be a fun, spirited gesture to have “dueling” mini barbeque sandwiches as an hors d’oeuvre. Jessica Chavis, director of member events at Forest Lake, found small South Carolina and North Carolina flags to designate which barbeque was from which state. Connell says she thinks more people ate the South Carolina sandwiches, but Fletcher insists the North Carolina sandwiches won.
A personal touch was the groom’s cake that Connell surprised Fletcher with. The cake was a replica of “Windfall,” the off-campus home where Fletcher resided during his last years at Washington and Lee University. “After a lot of searching, Bonnie Brunt of Bonnie Brunt Cakes in St. Matthews was willing to take the challenge,” says Pat. “Connell sent her photographs, and she did a wonderful job. Fletcher was totally surprised!”
For their honeymoon, Connell and Fletcher went to the Greek Isles and visited Athens, Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini. “It was just so relaxing and even more than we’d hoped for,” Connell says. “Our favorite island was Santorini but everywhere we went was absolutely beautiful and had lots to do.” Connell and Fletcher are now living in the Dupont area of Washington, D.C.