This Bride Started Planning Her Wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains While Deployed in Iraq

Real Weddings

When Brittney and Brian first met in 2011, she was about to be deployed to the Middle East, but the couple didn't let that stop their budding relationship from growing. "On our second date, we went skydiving!" says Brittney. Over the course of the next two years, an eight-hour time difference, sparse Internet connections, and the stress of war tested the couple's strength, but, says the bride, "We knew that if we could make it through that, there was nothing we couldn't handle." During her final R&R in September 2013, Brian proposed while the couple was on vacation. Brittney had to go back to Iraq for one more month, so they quickly set a date for a year later on September 27, 2014, and started planning while she was 7,000 miles away.

The bride grew up in Madison, Virginia, so Brittney and Brian chose the town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as their wedding destination. "We wed in the same church where I was confirmed, and had our reception at the lodge where I grew up watching 4th of July fireworks and going to music festivals," she says. With the help of Amore Events, they planned a family-focused celebration with a relaxed feel, and hired A Muse Photography to photograph the big day.

Though Brittney had already ordered a pre-owned dress online, she kept her appointment at Kleinfeld so that she and her mom could have a dress-shopping experience together. "I even tried on the same dress I'd already bought, so my mom could see it," says the bride. When her stylist told her it was a safe choice, Brittney got out of her comfort zone with a sherbet-hued Tara Keely gown with a lace bodice. "I have never felt so great in a dress! I bounced out of the dressing room and knew I had to have it!" Her glitter J.Crew wedge sandals were so comfortable that she wore them all night.

To complement her red hair and colorful gown, Brittney wore a customized ombré blush veil — she had a longer ombré veil and a shorter one sewn together to add a blusher.

Bridesmaids wore gray Alfred Angleo dresses, and Brittney accompanied each woman on a shopping trip to help her find the perfect silhouette. The bride's bouquet combined a king protea, dahlias, garden roses, and greenery, all tied with a handmade silk ribbon that she used to attach her parents' wedding rings, two lucky pennies, and a gold rose that Brian had sent her for Valentine's Day while she was deployed. The bridesmaids' bouquets were all different, including one made of only greenery for a bridesmaid who was allergic to flowers.

The boutonnieres featured ivory ranunculus and blush rosebuds, tied with silk ribbon. Brian wore a custom vest and a herringbone jacket, and his groomsmen wore herringbone vests over Buffalo check shirts. Jeans and dark brown boots completed the rustic-elegant look.

"We both knew we'd have a hard enough time speaking in front of 175 guests," says Brittney, "so Brian and I decided to use the same vows that thousands of couples have used before us."

Outside the barn reception, guests played cornhole with boards customized to match the venue.

The reception décor was chosen to highlight the venue's rustic feel. Bistro lights (and a huge floral heart!) helped set the scene.

Guests sat at reclaimed picnic tables, which were decorated with lace runners and centerpieces in vintage bottles, vases, and wooden crates. Candles in lace-inspired votive holders glowed between the dahlias and garden roses.

Brittney created the oversized floral wall, which was used as a photo booth backdrop. "I cleaned out the floral section of every Michael's craft store in the area!" she laughs. At the end of the evening, guests took home jars of apple butter that were made at the lodge.

After a dinner inspired by southern Thanksgiving (think fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and salad with goat cheese and berries), the bride and groom cut into a coconut cake simply frosted with buttercream. Guests could also choose from chocolate, vanilla, and apple crumb cakes.

"It was so amazing being up in the mountains," says Brittney. "There's no cell service or WiFi, so everyone was so present." The couple headed west to Monterey, California, for their honeymoon. Says the bride, "Ask for help, and don't be afraid to tell people what you want. They want to help, but don't give them free reign over the design. Speak up!"

Ceremony Venue: Hebron Lutheran Church || Reception Venue & Catering: Graves Mountain Lodge || Wedding Planne & Florist: Amore Events by Cody || Bride's Wedding Dress: Tara Keely || Shoes: J.Crew || Jewelry: Kleinfeld || Hair: Kim Peterson || Makeup: Rouge 9 || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Alfred Angelo || Groom's Attire & Groomsmen's Attire: J.Crew || Ribbons: Silk & Willow || Invitations: Minted || Additional Paper Goods: Something Printable; Simple Simon Design || Music: Michael Coleman; Playback DJ || Rentals: Paisley & Jade, MS Events || || Photography: A Muse Photography

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Want more rustic wedding inspiration? Then check out another couple's wedding in the video below.

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