These College Sweethearts Had a Traditional Garden Wedding

This couple created a "secret garden" reception at a unique, greenery-covered space

couple holding hands in garden

Eliza Morrill Photography

Mary Schley met Henry “Sanders” Monsees in January of 2008 on a double date as college freshman at the University of Georgia. Although Mary was technically on the date with his friend that night, the two reconnected several months later—and on New Year’s Eve 2015, almost eight years later, Sanders popped the question while visiting Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.

For their wedding, the college sweethearts invited 425 guests to join them for a traditional ceremony at at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, Georgia (the church where Mary’s parents were married!) and an outdoor reception at RiverMill Event Centre, a restored venue featuring expansive gardens and brick walls covered in ivy. (Mary picked the venue because of her background in historic preservation). And on October 8, 2016, with the help from Patti Hasting of P. Hasting Design, Mary and Sanders put together a secret garden themed affair that included tons of family traditions.

Keep scrolling to see more of their traditional ceremony, as shot by Eliza Morrill Photography, below!

bride in gown with train
Eliza Morrill Photography

After trying on over 40 wedding gowns, Mary admits that she was starting to lose faith that she'd ever find “The One”. But as soon as she came out of the dressing room in a long-sleeved lace Anna Maier gown, she and her mom both burst into tears. “It was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen and no one I knew had worn anything like it, she says. "It just felt perfectly me!"

The bride borrowed antique jewelry from her great aunt, including diamond and pearl bow earrings and a diamond brooch that her cousins had worn at their weddings, too. She completed her look with strappy sandals by Jimmy Choo.

Bridal bouquet
Eliza Morrill Photography

The bride’s bouquet featured orchids, roses, and lily of the valley in an asymmetrical design.

Couple kissing at church ceremony
Eliza Morrill Photography

Mary and Sanders had a very traditional ceremony with one stand-out detail: The music! Mary’s Great (x6) Grandfather, John Thomas Schley, immigrated from Germany in 1744 and helped found the town of Frederick, Maryland. He was the Pastor of a church there, where he composed and played music that is still played in churches throughout Maryland today.

Outdoor table reception venue
Eliza Morrill Photography

The gardens of the old mill were decorated with string lights, farm tables, and a dancefloor for the reception. As the sun began to set over the river, guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails from Cathead Distillery, where Sanders works.

As for the reception's decor, Mary says the original centerpieces featured tulips in tall vases, but the wind was just too strong on the day-of as there was a hurricane on the way! “The florist eventually made the call to put them flat on the tabletops. While it changed the floral vision quite a bit, the breeze sure was wonderful on the dance floor,” she says.

Wedding reception set table
Eliza Morrill Photography

During the reception, the band called Sanders up on stage to sing “My Girl” to his new wife. Mary shared the story of when her friends pushed Sanders onto stage to sing “My Girl” when the two first started dating eight years prior. “This is one of our favorite stories to tell so it really brought everything full circle,” she says, “Even though I think he hated every minute of it and is truly a terrible singer, he was a great sport!”

Couple holding hands during reception
Eliza Morrill Photography

Since Mary and Sanders’ wedding took place on the night a hurricane hit, they say they felt especially blessed to have so many family and friends travel inland for their big day. “It was so touching that in the midst of potential disaster our guests still made the trip to Columbus to celebrate with us," Mary says. "I can’t think of a sweeter wedding gift!”

Wedding Team

Ceremony Venue: St. Paul United Methodist Church

Reception Venue: RiverMill Event Centre

Event Planner: P. Hasting Design

Bride's Dress & Veil: Anna Maier

Bride's Shoes: Jimmy Choo

Hair & Makeup: Emily Cumings

Floral Design: Albright’s Florist

Invitations: Studio R Design

Programs & Welcome Pamphlets: By Invitation

Music: Life of the Party with East Coast Entertainment

Catering: JK Culinary

Favors: Whippoorwill Farms

Photography: Eliza Morrill Photography

Related Stories