For our bridal section this month, I asked wedding and event planners Russell Whitehead and Ruthie Bowlin to suggest an especially memorable Memphis wedding that had taken place this past year. Without hesitation — in unison — they responded: the nuptials of Liza Wellford and Richie Fletcher.
Photography by Kristyn Hogan
O f course, every wedding that Russell and Ruthie Events plans is special, not least of which was “The Royal Wedding” last May (surely everyone has read about that one). Still, Whitehead and Bowlin describe the reception of Liza and Richie last March, held on the grounds of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, as truly magical. “There has been no other wedding like this in Memphis,” they agreed. I am told our bride, Liza, is a “natural” girl — outdoorsy, athletic, and warm — and the plans for her wedding emanated from her personality and style. Fortunately, her gracious and loving parents, Adele and Beasley Wellford, were happy to be able to give their daughter the woodland-themed wedding she envisioned. At the outset, the whimsical and creative wedding invitations provided by Menage Fine Stationery and Gifts were letter-pressed with swirling tree branches that provided the lucky guests with a taste of things to come. On the day of the wedding the bride, along with her bridesmaids, had a dressing party at the beautiful East Memphis home of the bride’s proud grandparents, Irene and Joe Orgill. The makeup session for the girls was provided by one of Memphis’ favorite makeup artists, Seven Moore, formerly of Joseph and now with Neiman Marcus, who came in from Atlanta especially for the occasion. The talented hairstylists were from Memphis: Ronald McKnight, Farrah Taylor and Whitney Gicking.
T he wedding ceremony was held at nearby Second Presbyterian Church, which was indeed where the happy couple met; the officiant was Reverend Mitchell Moore. Echoing the naturalistic theme, Liza’s elegant wedding gown by Austin Scarlett was painted with pale mauve flowers. Mother of the bride, Adele Orgill Wellford, looked gorgeous in a Lanvin dress adorned with butterflies. Delicate woodland ferns dripped from all the bridal bouquets.
F ollowing the service, it was “into the woods” for the reception at the Dixon’s Hughes Pavilion. Three additional clear tents were added by Amerispan Tents to increase the party space, and Moonshine Lighting added to the leafy magic of the secluded woodland setting. Southern Valet guided guests to a forest path, where they wended their way through the woods to enter the cocktail tent and were greeted with champagne and a seafood bar. Side Street Steppers, playing bluegrass music, were positioned through the woods so that music wafted from all directions. Next, guests stepped into the pavilion itself — a wonderland of flowers and ferns cascading from the ceiling. Touches of salvaged barn wood, a cork bar, and copper containers, some of which were in the personal collection of Bowlin, gave a rustic yet sophisticated and creatively subtle touch to the decorations. Petal tablecloths from Classic Party Rentals, pink tulips, and tree trunk vases sprouting anemones also contributed to the “forest feel.” The Garden District provided the flowers and created a tableau that resembled nothing so much as a beautiful stage set for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Guests were treated to gourmet cuisine catered by Jose Gutierrez, master chef and owner of River Oaks, Memphis’ modern French-American bistro. In a special gesture, he closed his restaurant for the night and was on hand at the reception, along with his catering manager, Nancy Kistler, and other staff members.
The magnificent wedding cake was decorated with imported handspun sugar “mushrooms and ferns,” provided by Greg Campbell and Erick New of the Garden District, that truly seemed real enough to have come straight from the forest floor. The traditional tiered cake was by the Flour Garden here in town, and in addition Becky Frost of Old Towne Bakery in Olive Branch, Mississippi, prepared a sideboard full of extra chocolate, carrot, and caramel cakes for guests to enjoy.
Artist Ronald Bayens was outside painting the event on-site for posterity. The dancing tent looked like a conservatory with moonlight shining above to the point that guests almost believed they were truly outside. French doors were installed to open into the tents, and wood flooring was painted with vines.
The rockin’ band for dancing was 2 Mule Plow, and the last dance was Jerry Lee Lewis’ classic “Great Balls of Fire.”
It is said that the aforementioned William Shakespeare used forest settings in his plays to represent magical places where his characters could escape reality. So it was that in this dreamlike woodland wedding at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, to the delight of friends and family alike, an evening of magic was created that, according to the mother of the bride, was “beyond my wildest dreams.” When it was over, Liza and Richie disappeared into the woods (and ultimately into Hall Prewitt’s vintage Cadillac) in a shower of confetti, to begin a new and very real life together.