A Wooded DIY Outdoor Wedding on a Family Property in East Texas

Planned by the bride and her mother.

Sparkler send-off

Photo by Tailor James

Meag Banner and Michael Cotter met in the fall of 2018 at Texas A&M through mutual friends, and got engaged during the height of the pandemic: Michael proposed on a sailboat off the coast of the San Juan Islands in Washington, afloat on the Pacific Ocean. 

Their wedding on May 29, 2021, was back on dry land—and paid homage to it in a number of beautiful ways. The venue was the sprawling East Texas property on which Meag grew up—expansive enough to host more than 400 guests outdoors—and décor was pulled directly from the earth: flowers picked from the garden, timber used to handcraft a cross for the altar, and more. It was a massive DIY project for the whole family, who came together to construct tables, pluck greenery for centerpieces and press wildflowers into the cake (Meag’s great-grandmother’s recipe). The most valuable asset, says the bride, was “the help of a mother who can do it all.” Indeed, her mom, Kristi Banner, oversaw planning and logistics, and even did the florals herself. The bride adds, “She was a superhero!”

Constant rain leading up to the fully outdoor event delayed preparations, so when the sky finally cleared it was all hands on deck. “The ridiculous amount of people, friends, and family setting up tables and chairs and sawdust for the mud, the array of the love and community coming together to make our day happen, was the most special piece,” Meag remembers. “Always take help from others if they are offering—it’s a gift to be loved on.” And luckily, the forecast was proven wrong. "We had the most beautiful weather the whole night,” Meag says.

Read on to see how the wedding day came together, planned by the bride and her mother with the help of H2 Weddings for day-of coordination, and photographed by Tailor James.

Invitations

Photo by Tailor James

The white-and-gold invitation suite by Kirby Mankin Design sent to all 408 guests featured a custom illustration of the antique church doors and florals that would appear at the venue. A gold wax seal was pressed with an ornate letter C for Meag and Michael’s married last name.

Accessories

Photo by Tailor James

Dress

Photo by Tailor James

Makeup

Photo by Tailor James

The bride wore a spritz of Maison Louis Marie’s No. 4 Bois de Balincourt perfume for the big day, and was beautified by Adorne Artistry

Bride's attire

Photo by Tailor James

Bride reading a letter

Photo by Tailor James

The couple exchanged gifts leading up to the wedding: Michael gave his bride a pair of freshwater pearl drop earrings from Serendipitous Project that she paired with her gown. He received a pair of handcrafted black lizard boots to don with his tux. They also swapped letters, written the day of the wedding “to get all the real and raw emotions,” Meag says. 

Bridal party

Photo by Tailor James

Their high guest count allowed for a large wedding party. Meag’s dual maids of honor, 15 bridesmaids, and additional honorary members got ready together wearing chic white shoulder-tie shifts.

Wedding dress

Photo by Tailor James

Wedding dress

Photo by Tailor James

“Trying on dresses for your wedding is the ultimate dress-up,” Meag says of the shopping experience. She knew she’d found the one when “I felt like a true bride, finally!” She opted for Eva Lendel’s “Jess” gown, a glossy sheath with lowered shoulder wrap and detachable overskirt. Her heirloom veil featured appliqués made from the lace of her mother’s wedding gown.

Bouquet

Photo by Tailor James

Meag carried a bouquet of white peonies, garden roses, lisianthus, white stock, white cosmos, and freesia, pulled together by her mother.

Bridal party first look

Photo by Tailor James

A first look as important as the first time she saw her groom: Meag’s reveal to her bridesmaids, who carried miniature versions of her bouquet with white stock, white lisianthus, delphinium, and white cosmos. Their genuine and emotional reactions made for a priceless photo op.

Groom's attire

Photo by Tailor James

Groom

Photo by Tailor James

Michael looked dapper in a black tuxedo and bow tie. His unique boutonniere featured a spray rose, lisianthus, and quail feather.

Setting

Photo by Tailor James

The Banner family property is a sprawling plot in Nacogdoches, Texas—the oldest city in the state, founded in 1779. “We chose to have our wedding here because this was the land I grew up on, in the heart of the piney wood forests of East Texas,” Meag says.

Aisle decor

Photo by Tailor James

The heavily wooded ceremony area was the magic we wanted our guests to experience.

Ceremony seating

Photo by Tailor James

Ceremony backdrop

Photo by Tailor James

The aisle was lined with arrangements of white delphiniums, peonies, lisianthus, and natural greenery. At the altar, asymmetrical vertical floral installations flanked a cross handmade by the groom—without any power tools!—using trees found on the property. 

Wedding guests

Photo by Tailor James

Guests traveled to the ceremony site on foot and by golf cart, and stepped into an enchanted fairytale. “The heavily wooded ceremony area was the magic we wanted our guests to experience,” Meag says. 

Entertainment

Photo by Tailor James

Music

Photo by Tailor James

“We had live music from two dear friends and talented musicians who sang worship and instrumental guitar,” the bride says of the ceremony entertainment. Later, a quartet jazz band played during cocktail hour, and a full live band performed for the reception.

Ceremony

Photo by Tailor James

Ceremony

Photo by Tailor James

Ceremony

Photo by Tailor James

Meag’s father walked her down the aisle toward her groom. In addition to the traditional ceremonial vows, the couple recited “collective vows.” “We wrote them together and said the same ones,” Meag explains. The unique process served as another way to draw the couple closer together as they planned their wedding.

Ceremony

Photo by Tailor James

Recessional

Photo by Tailor James

Just pure joy was the emotion.

Recessional

Photo by Tailor James

Guests applauded as the excited newlyweds recessed down the aisle. “Just pure joy was the emotion,” Meag says. “The day was so wrapped in high emotion; this was the day we had dreamed and prayed for so long!”

Couple kissing

Photo by Tailor James

Couple walking

Photo by Tailor James

Couple portrait

Photo by Tailor James

A pair of towering antique doors, originally crafted for a church in England, marked the entrance to the ceremony space, and the couple stopped here for a portrait after saying “I do.” 

Bride and groom

Photo by Tailor James

Bride and groom kissing

Photo by Tailor James

Meag’s advice to other brides? “Remember that your day, at the end of the day, is about the marriage, not the wedding," she shares. "All that truly matters is that you are married to the love of your life.” This romantic kiss during the couple’s portrait session was proof she’s found hers. 

Couple holding hands

Photo by Tailor James

All that truly matters is that you are married to the love of your life.

Couple potrait

Photo by Tailor James

The couple’s portraits, shot between ceremony and reception, are as timeless as the bride’s inspiration for her big day—a vision full of greenery and elegant white florals.

Bridal party

Photo by Tailor James

Bridal party

Photo by Tailor James

Groomsmen

Photo by Tailor James

Groomsmen

Photo by Tailor James

The bridal party wore a variety of champagne-colored gowns in silk, satin, and charmeuse. Matching Michael, the groomsmen donned timeless black tuxedos by Michael Kors and quail feather boutonnieres.

Wedding party

Photo by Tailor James

Wedding party

Photo by Tailor James

Couple walking

Photo by Tailor James

Following the portraits, the large wedding party headed into cocktail hour, where they kicked off the party by sipping “His” and “Hers” signature cocktails: an Old Fashioned garnished with orange peel, and a lavender-hibiscus vodka concoction, respectively.

Reception tables

Photo by Tailor James

Reception table

Photo by Tailor James

Among the many DIY projects for the wedding was construction of the dinner tables: Meag’s family came together to build 24 eight-foot cross-legged harvest tables for dinner. Greenery like wild smilax throughout the space was sourced from the woods of the venue. 

Centerpiece

Photo by Tailor James

Flowers

Photo by Tailor James

The scene was set: White florals and more greenery were arranged for centerpieces housed in a variety of gold-footed vessels. A thin cheesecloth runner and ivory taper candles in antique brass holders topped the handcrafted tables. Twinkle lights were strung up through the trees.

Appetizers

Photo by Tailor James

Appetizers

Photo by Tailor James

While the decor was natural and clean, the food offered an exuberance of color. Fresh vegetables, cheeses, fruits, and dips were spread out before dinner was served. The main meal featured cracked peppercorn tenderloin and smoked beef brisket, with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans with shredded carrots and almonds, and fresh dinner rolls.

Grandparents

Photo by Tailor James

Couple holding hands

Photo by Tailor James

First dance

Photo by Tailor James

First dance

Photo by Tailor James

Meag and Michael chose “Who I Am” by Wade Bowen for their first dance as newlyweds. For the other ceremonial dances, classic country was the theme: Meag and her father swayed to Randy Travis’ “Deeper Than the Holler.” Michael and his mother opted for “Write This Down” by George Strait. 

Cake

Photo by Tailor James

Cake cutting

Photo by Tailor James

Couple kissing

Photo by Tailor James

The cake was a nod to family and home, as well. Baked using the bride’s great-grandmother’s recipe for Italian cream cake, it featured wildflowers from the mother-of-the-bride’s garden pressed into the icing.

Champagne tower

Photo by Tailor James

Champagne tower

Photo by Tailor James

After slicing into the cake, the couple poured Champagne down a tower of coupes. The black-and-white photos give the moment an extra special, artistic feel. 

Couple's seats

Photo by Tailor James

Toast

Photo by Tailor James

Mud flying through the tiles of the dance floor only brought more laughter to the elegant black tie event.

Sparkler send-off

Photo by Tailor James

Toasts and a sparkler exit capped off a perfect evening. "[By] the end of the night, mud flying through the tiles of the dance floor only brought more laughter to the elegant black tie event,” Meag remembers with joy. “Let anything happen. It is all going to work out the way it should to make lasting memories that you may have never expected.”

Wedding Team

Coordinator H2 Weddings

Bridal Gown Designer Eva Lendel

Bridal Boutique The Blushing Bride Boutique 

Jewelry Serendipitous Project 

Hair and Makeup Adorne Artistry

Groom’s Shoes Tecovas

Groomsmen’s Tuxes Michael Kors

Officiant Anthony Ceder, Matthews Memorial Presbyterian Church

Rings Lyles Degrazier Jewelers

Invitations Kirby Mankin Design

Photography Tailor James

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