Both North Carolina natives, Sallie Grace and Ashley met while employed at an all-girls boarding school in Virginia in 2002, and have been together ever since. “Our courtship and relationship was a bit unusual,” shares Sallie Grace. “Particularly given the fact that I was ‘in the closet’ and Ashley was more comfortable being out. Still the couple lived and loved together in Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa and now California. Says Ashley, “It sounds like we are in the witness protection program.”
Never thinking they would live in a state where they could legally marry, the moved to California. “It was something we wanted for our relationship,” Ashley says. “Truth be told, we were well into wedding planning without an official engagement, but then again, after being together for a dozen years, was there really any doubt?” adds Sallie Grace. “Not to mention that we exchanged rings in 2006, without any thought that we would ever have the opportunity to get married.”
But with six months until the wedding, Sallie Grace began voicing concern that she couldn’t get married in the absence of a proposal. So Ashley secretly got some friends together and performed a surprise flash mob proposal at the Davis Farmers’ Market. “The Bruno Mars’ song ‘Marry You’ began to play and Ashley took her place front and center,” recalls Sallie Grace. “It was a moment to remember. Did I mention that Ashley is an awesome dancer? I was smiling ear to ear as she dropped to one knee and offered a hot pink, rubber ring.”
The couple originally planned to get married in Hawaii on October 25, 2012. Sadly, Sallie Grace’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier that year and her father passed away shortly after her mom. “When we returned to our wedding plans, it was extra special that we were married on the same date as our ‘original date’ only separated by two years,” she says. “Truth be told, we didn’t pick the date with that intention. It was a few weeks after the date was established that we made the connection.”
The couple wished for an outdoor ceremony close to sunset. “Park Winters was a perfect location,” says Sallie Grace. “Within moments, I had a feeling that ‘this was the place.’” The lovely home and grounds had all of the important elements, and Ashley had the same experience when she saw it.
The couple wanted the ceremony to be reflective of the strength and longevity of their love, and thus chose to write their own vows. “It’s rare that you have all of your family and friends at the same place and get to share such a special moment with them as witnesses,” says Ashley. “All aspects of the ceremony were carefully crafted to reflect our journey of love.”
With an anticipated rain shower, they quickly changed plans to have the reception in the barn at Park Winters, something that complemented their “rustic elegance” theme quite nicely. “A gorgeous rainbow appeared 15 minutes after the ceremony,” remembers Sallie Grace. “A feeling of utter contentment and happiness—surrounded by loving and supportive friends—some who had traveled 20 miles, while others had traveled 3,000 miles to be there. Love, smiles, hugs and laughter [were all] key elements to the event. Our motto was ‘lead with love…always!’”
― Darren Elms