A Southern, Garden-Style Wedding at Southwood House and Cottages in Tallahassee, Florida

After visiting their share of ballrooms and banquet halls for work, Laurie McClellan (31 and in finance) and Brian James (32 and a controller of CAA S

After visiting their share of ballrooms and banquet halls for work, Laurie McClellan (31 and in finance) and Brian James (32 and a controller of CAA Sports) knew they wanted a more casual, outdoor wedding filled with Southern, garden-style decor. “Our dream wedding included a ceremony under the oak trees and a family-style dinner, served as if you were at a backyard garden party,” Laurie says. “When we discovered Tallahassee’s Southwood House and Cottages, we knew it was a perfect fit.” After six months of planning, they filled its landscape with Sonoma wood chairs, eucalyptus and rose centerpieces, overflowing eucalyptus garlands from Missy Gunnels Flowers, romantic candlelight and sweet DIY floral signs made by Laurie’s sisters. To add some Southern flair, Laurie and Brian also chose a menu with fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. "Our inspiration was to give our guests a good helping of the South," Laurie says. Each guest ended the celebration with tons of dancing, a late-night chicken and waffles bites and cute local honey favors. Laurie also went home with a new hobby: “I enjoyed planning our day so much that I have begun helping others plan their weddings.” See all the details of their lavish affair, beautifully shot by Cassidy Carson (and coordinated by Shannon Reeves Events), below.

Each bridesmaid embraced their garden-party inspiration with long Heidi dresses by J.Crew. The misty rose look had an overlapping V-neck and a pleated silk-chiffon skirt that flowed from the empire waist. “The color was perfection with our venue’s surroundings,” Laurie says. Their groomsmen stood beside them in these sharp charcoal and white suits from the Black Tux.
Their Christian ceremony brought out the natural theme with an understated design. About 165 Sonoma wood chairs from Terri Smith Details filled the lawn at Southwood House as the main decor. Each one matched the surrounding oak trees and provided the more relaxed atmosphere Laurie and Brian wanted for their guests.
This flower girl didn't just carry natural blooms, she wore them! Her white tea-length dress was paired with a sweet flower crown filled with white ranunculus, pink roses and eucalyptus from Missy Gunnels Flowers.
A cherrywood table with twin white candlesticks and a gold cross formed the altar at their Christian-based ceremony. Romantic arrangements of eucalyptus and roses decorated both sides. “Our goal was to keep the ceremony decor simple, so everyone could focus on the message,” Laurie says.
“I love almost any arrangement of fresh flowers, so I had the hardest time settling on just a few types,” Laurie says. “I wanted the bouquets to feel whimsical, but not so loose that they competed with the draping Spanish moss and greenery around our venue.” The pros at Missy Gunnels Flowers took this to heart and made overflowing, garden-style bouquets for Laurie and her bridesmaids. Each one had pink roses, blush garden roses, white hydrangeas, pink delphiniums and tons of greenery wrapped in champagne ribbon. The bridal arrangement, however, was the largest with succulents and grand peonies in white and pink. (The succulents also served as a subtle nod to their home in California.)
“When we discovered Tallahassee’s Southwood House and Cottages, we knew it was a perfect fit,” Laurie says. They loved the giant oaks draped in Spanish moss, so it served as the backdrop for their sweet, outdoor ceremony. Guests watched the service from wooden chairs as the soon-to-be weds shared personalized vows and live music played in the background. “My cousin, Katie Fair, played and sang ‘By Our Love’ by Christy Nockels,” Laurie says. “The words of this song are powerful and speak so closely to the story we want our marriage to tell.”
Adding some color to his charcoal and white suit, Brian chose a peach rose boutonniere to top his notched lapel. The same-style rose was used throughout the bridal party's bouquets as well as the tablescape on their head table.
Wanting something completely classic, Laurie and Brian picked out their custom wedding rings at Redford Jewelers in Salt Lake City, Utah. “My family has used Redford Jewelers throughout the years, which gave it a memorable touch,” Brian says. Her engagement ring had an oval diamond surrounded by a slight halo and pave diamonds throughout the white gold band. (Brian paired it with his white gold wedding ring.)
Picking different pieces from Stella & Dot and Nordstrom, Laurie made sure all her wedding jewelry kept that classic feel. The timeless earrings stood out beside her chic updo with a long, teardrop design.
Guests found their seats using a sweet floral seating chart. A pink and green background brought out their garden style, while a wooden frame gave it a more natural feel.
The coordinators at Shannon Reeves Events took care of making the reception look exactly as they envisioned it: a family garden party. Dark wooden chairs lined every family-style table, while string lighting was hung from above to give it a romantic and casual feel.
To make the decor even more romantic, Laurie and Brian worked with Missy Gunnels Flowers to line their tablescape with candlelight. Tall silver and white candelabras were set alongside a garland of eucalyptus and separated by orange, pink and white roses.
Place cards stood out with their true navy hue as the backdrop and each guest’s name spelled out in white calligraphy. The best part, however, was that the notes were made by Laurie’s sister, Melissa McClellan. “We were so pleased with our paper goods. They were one of my favorite details,” Laurie says.
Laurie and Brian's head table was dripping with greenery! A lush garland of eucalyptus from Missy Gunnels Flowers cascaded past every place setting before it fell back onto the grass, matching the natural landscape at Southwood House and Cottages in Tallahassee, Florida.
The barrel-lined bar perfectly fit their decor! Instead of wooden chairs, a rustic element was added with twin barrels. Eucalyptus garlands, which matched the head table’s centerpieces, also cascaded down the front. To make things more personalized, Laurie’s sisters made a shabby-chic window sign listing every beer, wine and nonalcoholic drink in stock.
For the ceremony and part of the reception, Laurie wore a floor-length tulle veil that was nothing short of classic. It was custom-made by Penelope’s, the same designer that made her dress, with a lace trim along the edge and a fingertip-length blusher.
Along with a four-tier wedding cake, the couple also treated their guests to a few other desserts. Banana pudding was available in cone-shaped glasses for guests who wanted an alternative dessert. Later on, the newlyweds also brought out chicken and waffle skewers and chocolate-covered strawberries.
With a few Pinterest pictures as inspiration, Hopkins Eatery took care of their buttercream wedding cake design. The confection matched their theme with garden roses, roses, succulents and hydrangeas on every tier as well as the topper. The base was even circled with greenery. Below its frosting, the cake also had a personalized detail. "We both love traditional yellow cake with buttercream frosting, so picking out the flavors was easy,” Laurie says.
Their DIY signs went full circle at the reception. Made by Laurie’s sisters, the seating chart along the entrance and the wedding favor sign for the end of their party had a floral background with ranunculus-inspired illustrations and greenery.
Laurie and Brian sent every guest home with a jar of Smiley Honey. “Tupelo honey is found only in northwest Florida and southern Georgia, and it's a real treat,” Laurie says. The gifts also brought out their wedding color with a navy ribbon bow wrapped around a matching honeycomb-inspired accent.
Laurie's first-dance look alluded to their garden style with a more casual twist. She switched out her veil for a sweet flower crown by Missy Gunnels Flowers; it was filled with baby’s breath, ranunculus and eucalyptus. The accessory went beautifully with her classic braided updo from Salon IQ and stayed in place throughout the first song.